2 I have loved 1  you, says the Lord. But you say 2  ,

In what manner have you loved us?

Was not 3  Esau Jacob’s brother? 4  says the Lord. 5 

Yet I have loved Jacob,

3 but Esau I have hated. 6 

I have turned 7  his mountains 8  into a wasteland

and his inheritance (into a habitation) for the desert jackals. 9 

4 If 10  Edom would say: We have been crushed,

but we will rebuild 11  the ruins, then says the Lord Almighty: They may build,

but I will demolish. 12 

They will be called 13  the Wicked Country,

A People Always under the Wrath of the Lord!

5 Your own eyes will see it, and you will say:

Great 14  is the Lord over 15  the territory of Israel!

The first pericope of Malachi’s prophecy resembles the preamble of the Decalogue and presupposes God’s covenant relationship with his people. It may be considered a general introduction to the prophecy, 16  in which attention is being drawn to the fact that the Lord has loved his people. This initial statement is of great significance. The tenor of the rest of the prophecy is one of judgment. The Lord is going to admonish and judge his people because of their sins in various spheres of their lives. But before addressing them with the stipulations and obligations of the law, he confronts them with the gospel: “I have loved you.”

According to its structure we could summarize the content of this pericope as follows:

Sentences 1–2 (v. 1): God’s declared love is called in question.

Sentences 3–9 (vv. 2–4): God’s love for Israel is demonstrated by his judgment of Edom.

Sentences 10–11 (v. 5): God’s love is being acknowledged by Israel.

It is important for the analysis of the discourse of this pericope to emphasize its basic theme. Contrary to a superficial impression, that theme is not the judgment of Edom but God’s covenant love for Israel. This is the initial statement, the pervasive presupposition, and the culmination of the entire discourse.

2–3a The Lord himself is addressing the people. He declares to them his unaltered and continuous love. I have loved you. The Hebrew perfect frequently denotes an action resulting in a state which may be of longer or shorter duration, according to the context (cf. Gen. 4:6, 9; 32:10). Where the consequence of such action or the action itself continues into the present, we may render it in the present tense: “I love you.” 17  This rule also applies to the perfect in our text. God’s love began far back in the history of his people and remained in force through their entire history until the present day. We prefer the rendering “I have loved you,” however, because the argument is based upon God’s continuous love during the whole of Israel’s history, including the present time. Malachi himself provides an eloquent commentary on God’s abiding love in 3:6: the reason for Israel’s continued existence is that the Lord has not changed.

The etymology of ʾāhēḇ is uncertain. Some scholars relate the word to a root ḥāḇaḇ, meaning “to be on fire,” but then in the sense of “to love” (cf. Deut. 33:3). This meaning is also found in other Semitic languages and in Mishnaic Hebrew. 18  It is doubtful, however, whether the two roots ʾhb and ḥbb can be related to one another in such a manner. 19 

ʾāhēḇ is the ordinary Hebrew word for “love.” According to Quell its primary basis is the sexual relationship, with reference to Gen. 24:67; 1 Sam. 18:20; Hos. 3:1. 20  Snaith, on the other hand, presupposes the relationship of a dignitary toward one in need, and refers to Gen. 29:18; 37:3; Deut. 4:37; and 1 Sam. 18:1, 16. 21 

The modern approach, however, is not to rely too much on the etymology of words. Quell rightly concedes that ʾāhēḇ is used to express other relationships as well, for instance, the love of parents for their children (Gen. 22:2; 25:28), the mutual love between friends (1 Sam. 18:1, 3; 20:7), and even to denote the relationship between a slave and his master (Exod. 21:5). We are more interested in the word’s meaning according to its usage. In this connection it is interesting to note that both the Peshitta and the Targum have substituted rāḥam, “to have compassion,” “to bestow love on someone in need,” for ʾāhēḇ. In the literature of the Christian era ʾāhēḇ seems to have vanished. 22 

The “love (ʾāhēḇ) of God” occurs 32 times in the OT. The objects of his love are righteous deeds (Ps. 11:7; 33:5; 37:28; etc.), those who pursue righteousness (Prov. 15:9), and are in themselves righteous (Ps. 146:8). The Lord loves those he disciplines (Prov. 3:12; Heb. 12:6), and the alien (Deut. 10:18). Abraham is called “the loved one,” the friend of God (Isa. 48:14). He loves Mount Zion (Ps. 78:68; 87:2) and his “sanctuary,” here presumably Israel (Mal. 2:11). In most passages his love is directed toward Israel (Deut. 7:6–8; 7:13; 23:5; Ps. 47:5 [Eng. 4]; Isa. 43:4; Jer. 31:3; Hos. 11:1; 14:5; Mal. 1:2; 2:11) and their predecessors, the patriarchs (Deut. 4:37; 10:15).

The love of God for Israel is sovereign and unconditional. In a sense it is synonymous with election (baḥar) and redemption yāšaʿ). 23  This love-election relationship between God and Israel is classically expressed in Deut. 7:6–8: “the Lord your God has chosen (bāḥar) you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love upon you and chose (bāḥar) you.… It was because the Lord loves (ʿāhēḇ) you” (cf. Deut. 4:32–34; 10:14, 15; 23:5). The unconditional character of God’s love for Israel is also stressed by Hosea, the prophet who was rightly called “the most magnificent preacher of God’s love.” 24  His love was that of a virtuous man toward an unworthy wife (Hos. 3:1; 11:8, 9; 14:5; cf. also Isa. 43:3, 4; 49:15; 54:5–8; Jer. 2:2–5, 31, 32; 31:3; Ezek. 16). In Jer. 31:3 God’s love for Israel is defined as “an everlasting love (ʾaheḇaṯ ʿôlām). These components of the semantic domain of the word ʿāhēḇ are also present in the Lord’s declaration of his love for Israel in our text. Historically it started with the calling of Abraham (Isa. 41:8; 2 Chr. 20:7), and with his love bestowed on the patriarchs (Deut. 4:37; 10:15). It was classically revealed in God’s deliverance of Israel from the house of bondage (Deut. 4:34, 37; 7:8; 33:2, 3; Hos. 11:1), and, as the cause of the covenant relationship, it accompanied Israel’s history. 25  In Lam. 3:22, 23 this truth is expressed in a striking manner: “Because of the Lord’s great love (ḥasḏê YHWH] we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (NIV; cf. Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17).

In our text God’s declared love for Israel is called in question. But you say, In what manner have you loved us? This style of dialogue is characteristic of Malachi’s prophecy (cf. 1:6, 7; 2:14, 17; 3:7, 8, 13). 26  A sporadic use of this style is also found in Isa. 40:27–31; 49:14–21; Jer. 13:11, 12; 15:1, 2; Ezek. 18:2; and Zech. 1–6. It is a common trend in the later Jewish literature, especially in the Mishnah and Talmud. Because of this resemblance in style between Malachi and the Jewish rabbis, some scholars dispute the originality of Malachi’s diction, but unjustly so. 27  Instead of being drab and stereotyped, Malachi’s style could rather be compared with the lively dialogue of the popular orator. 28  The same method was applied in the works of Greek authors and by Paul in his proclamation of the gospel. 29 

The question whether the people really reacted in such a manner must be left open. 30  If not in actual words, this reaction may be assumed in the mind and acts of the people. Adamson may be right that the origin of Malachi’s dialogues must be found in “the protesting and questioning cries of the hecklers, when he first delivered his message on the streets.” 31 

In what manner have you loved us? The point of reference in this question is not so much the metaphysical truth of God’s love for Israel, but rather the actual experience of that love in the people’s concrete existence and adversities. In what has God manifested his love for them? 32  They bluntly denied the fact and significance of God’s love. In a way this is an astonishing question. It presupposes the denunciation of both election and covenant, the annulment of their own wonderful history and of the fact that his compassions never fail, that they are new every morning (Lam. 3:22, 23).

Although one cannot condone the utterly irreligious and irresponsible character of this question, one may appreciate their attitude in the context of their experiences. Their expectations of a glorious renewal of their national life after the return from exile had been disappointed. The promised kingdom of the Messiah had still not dawned. Israel as a nation was not delivered and glorified. They still remained under Persian rule (1:8) and were suffering from pests and plagues (2:17; 3:11, 12). The words of Isa. 59:9–11 seem to reflect their own situation: “So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes.… We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away” (NIV).

This questioning of God’s love presupposes a situation in which it has become extremely difficult for the people to experience the reality of God’s intervention on their behalf. It suggests a point in Israel’s history a longer or shorter time after the exhilarating experiences of the return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 1, 3, 7, 8; Neh. 7; Hag. 2; Zech. 1–8). It was a time of low ebb, when it wearied priests and people to bring their sacrifices (1:13), when they deemed it irrelevant to do good or evil in the eyes of the Lord (2:17), and futile to serve him (3:14).

Because the Lord has not changed (3:6), he reacted to Israel’s charge by giving concrete proof of his love. He is going to demonstrate his love by reminding his people of the distinction between Israel and Edom with regard to their respective fates and destinies. This proof could not be denied, because it was substantiated by the facts of history. It all started a long time ago. Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?

The interrogative particle ha connected with the negative lōʾ presupposes an answer in the affirmative: “Yes, of course!” 33  Esau was indeed Jacob’s brother. In Hebrew the brotherhood is stressed more emphatically: “Was he not a brother, viz., Esau of Jacob?” 34  Note especially the sequence in this question. Esau is named first because he was the firstborn (Gen. 25:25, 26) and therefore entitled to the birthright, the person who could have claimed preferential treatment. The proposal to delete “says the Lord” (Heb. neʾum YHWH) because of the meter (BHK and BHS) is unnecessary. This expression occurs only once, but it conforms to Malachi’s general appeal to divine authority (so J. M. P. Smith, A. S. van der Woude, et al.).

Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated. This statement is chiastically structured to emphasize the point in question.

I have loved … Jacob,

Esau … I have hated. 35 

The mystery and significance of God’s love for Israel is especially evident from the fact that his preferential treatment was, contrary to the general custom and conception, not directed to Esau but to Jacob. This included both Jacob’s and Esau’s descendants.

How are we to assess the purport of the antithesis between God’s “love” and “hate” in this context? We will have to reject statements like that of Edgar, according to whom Malachi’s response is characterized “for its lack of depth.” “How can God’s love,” he asks, “be demonstrated by comparing it to his hate for Esau? The reasoning is not altogether acceptable to us.” 36  The same applies to the statement of Brockington according to whom “this attitude of Yahweh to Edom reflects … Israel’s own attitude to Esau.” 37  Would this also have been Paul’s attitude when he referred to this statement in Rom. 9:13?

According to most scholars the contrasting concepts of “love” and “hate” must be interpreted in the sense of more or less. Laetsch represents this point of view. According to him “the Lord is speaking here not of absolute love embracing only one nation and of absolute hatred directed against another nation. The word hate is used in the sense of less love.” 38 

It must be granted that the idea of a comparative contrast between love and hate is usually implied when it concerns the interrelationship between two persons, for instance, between two wives of the same husband. In Gen. 29:31 Leah is referred to as “the hated one” (enûʾâ), but in the previous verse we were told that Jacob “loved Rachel more than Leah” (cf. also 1 Sam. 1:2, 5; Luke 14:26). This comparative contrast between love and hate is unquestionably implied in Deut. 21:15–17. In connection with the birthright of the firstborn, a husband with two wives is admonished not to give preference to the son of his beloved wife if that son is not his firstborn. He must consider the right of the real firstborn, even though it is the son of the wife that he “hated.” In this context the “hated” wife is the one that is less loved. In Hebrew the comparative relationship is sometimes expressed by merely joining the opposites, leaving it to the reader to assess the “dialectical” character of especially the negative statement. 39 

But the question is whether this idea of more or less reflects the real and significant meaning of the statement in our text. We do not believe so. The “love” that is spoken of in our text is sovereign and unconditional. It is God’s “love” for Israel. It did not take into account the birthright prerogative of Esau (Gen. 25:25), the feelings or attitudes of the parents (Gen. 25:28), or even the moral imperfections of Jacob (Gen. 25:29–34) and his descendants throughout their history and in the time of Malachi. God’s “love” was in no way conditioned by the moral qualities of its object, but emanated from his sovereign will and mercy. This “love” is undefmable in terms of more or less. 40 

In a certain sense this is also true of God’s “hate.” This pericope describes its effect (1:3, 4) and its cause (1:4b). According to Michel this “hate” can be described in terms of “differentiation and disavowal, punishment and judgment.” 41  The character of God’s hate is evident when we consider the objects of his hate. He hates idolatry (Deut. 12:31; 16:22; Jer. 44:4; Hos. 9:15; Zech. 8:17), evildoers (Ps. 5:6 [Eng. 5]), the wicked and those who love violence (Ps. 11:5), robbery and iniquity (Isa. 61:8), and Israel’s heathenized cult (Amos 5:21), as well as several vices mentioned in Prov. 6:16–19. The intensity of God’s hate is emphasized when it is said that he “hates with all his soul” (Ps. 11:5, NEB), and especially when we consider the destructive effect of his hate: he will “destroy” those who tell lies (Ps. 5:7 [Eng. 6]), and on the wicked “he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur” (Ps. 11:6, NIV).

In Hos. 9:15 the positive statement that God hated Israel because of all their wickedness is followed by the negative counterpart: “I will no longer love them.” The gross effect will be that God will “drive them out of (his) house,” out of the promised land and away from his divine presence.

In the light of scriptural evidence we are warned against reverting to human psychology in interpreting God’s “love” and “hate.” Both his love and hate are far more profound than the corresponding human sentiments. Both concern God’s sovereign and radical decree. At the same time we must not interpret these divine “affections” in dogmatic terms. We disagree with Calvin, et al., that reference is made in our text to the predestination of Jacob to eternal life and the reprobation of Esau unto eternal damnation. 42  These ultimate destinies are not directly implied in our text and context. It concerns God’s attitude toward his covenant people in terms of his elective love, and by way of illustration his attitude toward Edom and his descendants who were not included in the covenant relationship. The semantic scope of both terms, “love” and “hate,” is primarily defined by the history of salvation. 43  In our nearer definition we must consider some appropriate distinctions.

God’s “love” and “hate” concern first of all Jacob and Esau as individuals (Gen. 25:23). In sovereign liberty God drew Jacob to his side, inserting him into the holy lineage out of which the seed of the woman would be bom (Gen. 3:15), and directing Esau to be on the side of the nations outside of his covenant relationship with Israel. In this sense “hate” does not imply that Esau was destined for eternal damnation. He merely became part of the nations at the fringe of the covenant people, and as such again entered into the scope of God’s redemptive purposes (Gen. 12:1–3).

In the relative histories of the descendants of both Jacob and Esau, God’s “love” and “hate” manifested themselves in a concrete manner. The territory and descendants of Edom emerged as a “wicked country” and as “a people with whom the Lord is angry for ever” (cf. Ezek. 25:12; 35:15; Obad. 10–16; Ps. 137:7; Lam. 4:21). In the process of the historical events God’s contrasting attitudes of love and hate deepened in accordance with his everlasting compassion on the one hand and his righteous judgment on the other hand. In this sense God’s “hate” has its correlation in Esau’s “wickedness” (v. 4b). The effect of both “love” and “hate” will be that Jacob’s descendants would be established in their country and those of Esau would be uprooted. 44 

The message of Malachi in this connection is in accordance with the testimony of Isa. 34–35 and 63:1–6, and of Ezek. 35–36. In Isa. 34–35 the prophecy of Israel’s restoration as a nation is connected with the eschatological depiction of Edom’s destruction. God’s vengeance on Edom and his deliverance of Israel are interrelated on his “day,” according to Isa. 63:1–6. The same vision on the relationship between Israel’s restoration and Edom’s destruction is found in Ezek. 35–36.

In the NT both “love” and “hate” are deepened to signify the participation or lack thereof in Christ’s work of redemption. 45 

3b In the prophecy of Malachi the fact of this preferential love is stated without further explanation. The motivation is irrelevant. The statement amounts to saying that Israel would not be able to deny it. The history of the forefathers and of the nations that originated from them serves to confirm the fact. God has turned Edom’s mountains, its indicated inheritance (Gen. 27:39), 46  into a wasteland, a habitation for the desert jackals. Contrary to Israel, who also was destroyed on occasion, Edom’s attempt to rebuild the ruins will be frustrated. The guilt of this nation and its fate are to be expressed in special names: the wicked country, a people always under the wrath of the Lord.

The Hebrew verb ʾāśîm governs two accusatives: I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and his inheritance (into a habitation) for the desert jackals. The imperfect with waw consecutive refers to facts of history. The LXX reads “his borders,” but this is obviously a slip of the pen, choosing a word with a similar sound, ta hŏria, instead of tá oreiá, but with the wrong meaning. Since Cappellus most scholars emended the Heb. leṯannôṯ, “for the jackals,” to linewôṯ, a shortened form of lineʾôṯ, from the root nāwâ or nāʿâ, meaning “pastures” (of the wilderness). This rendering seems to be substantiated by the rendering of the LXX: eis dómata, “to habitations,” a reading supported by the Peshitta and the Syro-Hexapla. It is also supported by scriptural evidence, where reference is made to “desert pastures” in a context of judgment (cf. Jer. 9:9 [Eng. 10]; 23:10; Joel 1:19, 20; 2:20; Ps. 65:13 [Eng. 12]). The main reason for this proposed emendation is that a feminine plural of the Hebrew word tan, “jackal,” is unknown. But the ending -ôṯ originally was just another plural ending, without the definite distinction in gender. 47  The expression “jackals of the desert” is well attested to denote the effect of the divine judgment (cf. Isa. 35:7; Jer. 9:11 [Eng. 12]; 10:22; 49:33; 51:37; Ps. 44:20 [Eng. 19]; Job 30:29).

A significant point in our exegesis is to establish the scope of the historical reference to Edom’s calamity. Three alternative historical events have been considered: (1) the possibility that Edom also was subdued by the Chaldeans shortly after 587 B.C.; (2) the calamities that ensued from the Persian-Egyptian wars; and (3) the invasion of Edom by the Nabateans. 48 

The argument of some scholars (e.g., Reinke, Keil, De Moor) that the comparison of Israel and Edom presupposes a simultaneous catastrophe and that it therefore must be connected with the Chaldean invasion of Judah in 587 B.C. is contrary to the facts of history. Instead of sharing Judah’s calamity, Edom was elated because of Judah’s downfall (cf. Ezek. 25:12; Obad. 10–16; Ps. 137:7; Lam. 4:21). According to Jer. 40:11 many Judeans fled to Edom and neighboring countries, and after a while returned to Judah. Therefore Edom’s calamity could not have been simultaneous with that of Judah. According to Josephus (Ant. 10.9.7 [180–82]) Nebuchadnezzar invaded Ammon and Moab in the twenty-third year of his reign (582 B.C.), and the suggestion is that he could have conquered Edom as well. The facts remain, however, that Edom was not mentioned in Nebuchadnezzar’s diary, 49  and that Edom eventually expanded its territory in a northerly direction during Judah’s exile. 50 

The second alternative, proposed by Jahn, Hitzig, et al., is a mere hypothesis and cannot be substantiated by historical data. We have no evidence to prove that Edom was in any way involved in the Persian-Egyptian wars. 51 

Therefore we prefer the third alternative. 52  The Edomites gradually vacated their territory from the fifth century onward because of the occupation of their country by the Nabateans. 53  The details of this gradual overrunning of the Edomites by the Nabateans are unknown, 54  as is the attempt of Edom to restore the damage done and the nature of the divine interference (Lattey). We may assume, however, that the statement of v. 3 had a bearing upon calamities which befell Edom in the time of Malachi, and that this may be connected with the penetration of Edom’s territory by the Nabateans. 55 

4 The notion that Edom would in the near future restore its national life, and that it would be able to rebuild the ruins of its cities and country, is going to be cancelled once and for all. Edom’s assumed response is introduced by the particle kî, with conditional force: “If,” “supposing that.” 56 

We have been crushed. The Peshitta and Targum mistakenly derived the Hebrew word from a root rōš, “to be in want,” “to be poor.” The meaning of the Pual perfect from the root rāšaš, “to be crushed” or “destroyed,” is supported by the rendering of the LXX and Vulgate. Edom realized their present condition. They have been crushed. Their cities and country have been laid waste.

Edom’s intention is to rebuild the ruins (lit. “We shall return and we shall build”). In such a statement the principal idea is introduced by the second verb, while the first (šûḇ) contains the definition of the manner of action, thus: “We shall build again,” “we shall rebuild.” 57  It is important to note that v. 4a and b is structured as an antithetical parallelism. Edom’s intention is radically cancelled by the Lord’s resolution. They may try to overcome their national calamity, they may diligently endeavor to re-establish the political and socio-economic basis for the continuation of their existence. They may try to do all these things, but the Lord will not allow it to happen. He will demolish. He will tear down that which they wanted to rebuild, and in the process he is going to end Edom’s history. The prophecy concerning Edom has described the full circle: the whole of this unit is the expansion of Sentence 5 (v. 3a): “But Esau I have hated.”

Israel must appreciate this fact. God’s love for them has been and will be demonstrated in their own restoration. His “hate” for Edom will manifest itself in that country’s total destruction. Israel must be reminded of God’s ultimates in dealing with the righteous and the wicked, as they were expressed by Asaph: “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (Ps. 73:16–17, NIV)

Edom’s fate and guilt are correlated. Both these aspects are expressed in proverbial names given “to them,” that is, to both the country and the people. They will be called the Wicked Country, A People Always under the Wrath of the Lord. As a wicked country they will always experience the wrath and judgment of the Lord. For this same reason God has driven the nations of Palestine out before the Israelites (Deut. 9:4). As a people Edom’s permanent ruins will always remind them of God’s wrath. This will continue “for ever.” The implication is that Edom, like Moab (Isa. 25:10), Babel (Isa. 13:1–14:23), and Egypt (Ezek. 30:3), is designated as God’s permanent enemy. Also in later Jewish literature Edom became the symbol of the enemy of God (cf. 1QM 1:1, 2, 4 with 1QM 12:11).

This prophecy concerning the permanent ruin of Edom and the Edomites has been fulfilled in the subsequent history. The Nabateans drove them from their territory, and the Maccabees added to their distress. In 185 B.C. Judas Maccabeus crushed their resistance (1 Macc. 5:3, 65; 2 Macc. 10:15–23, cf. Josephus Ant. 12.8.1 [327–29]), and fifty years later John Hyrcanus caused them to be circumcised. The end came in the time of Simon from Gerasa (cf. Josephus BJ 6.8.2 [378–86]. 58 

5 Israel’s duty and concern was to acknowledge the fact of God’s love for his people, as he had demonstrated it in the histories and destinies of both Israel and Edom. Your own eyes will see it. You will unquestionably become aware of it. This will be the conclusive answer to your own arrogant question: “In what manner have you loved us?” This acknowledgment will cause you to rejoice in the confession that Great is the Lord, exalted “above,” “over,” “upon” the territory of Israel. The Hebrew verb yig̱dal is not a passive but an imperfect in the active sense of “to be great,” “to manifest oneself as great.” In Mic. 5:3 (Eng. 4) the idea of the Lord’s greatness is applied to the universal reign of the Messiah, and in some of the psalms it is connected with the eschatological salvation (Ps. 35:27; 40:17 [Eng. 16]; 70:5 [Eng. 4]).

We deliberately prefer the translation mēʿal (le) as above, because this is how it is rendered in all the passages where it is used, with the possible exception of 2 Chr. 24:20 and 26:19 (cf. Gen. 1:7; 1 Sam. 17:39; Ezek. 1:25; Jon. 4:6; Neh. 12:31, 37; 2 Chr. 13:4). The main reason for our preference is to be found in the analysis of the discourse: the pervading theme is God’s love for his people. This theme is worked out negatively by demonstrating God’s love in what happened and is going to happen to Edom, and is then emphasized by Israel’s acknowledgment of the greatness of God’s love for his covenant people and country. The greatness of the Lord is not so much seen in his judgment upon Edom, but rather in the manifestation of his love for Israel. 59  Our rendering of mēʿal (le) is supported by the LXX hyperánō and the Vulgate super. The alternative translation, “beyond,” is supported by the Peshitta and Targum. The territory of Israel is preeminently contrasted with the wicked country of Edom: in one God’s glory and love is manifested and acknowledged, in the other his anger is felt for ever.

In sum, the Lord’s love for his covenant people has been called in question by Israel, has been proven by God in the respective histories and destinies of Israel and Edom, and had to be acknowledged by Israel. God has demonstrated to us his unquestionable love in the “history” of his Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (John 3:16), and our duty and privilege would be to acknowledge and proclaim this Good News.



 1 The Hebrew perfect may also be rendered in the present tense: “I love you” (cf. GKC, § 106g; S. R. Driver, A Treatise on the Use of Tenses in Hebrew, 3rd ed. [Oxford: Clarendon, 1874], § 11). A. S. Van der Woude prefers this translation, because the people’s response presupposes a concrete and present situation. The one possibility does not exclude the other, however. The prophet’s argument is based upon God’s continuous love, during the whole of Israel’s history, including the present time.

 2 The first two sentences are chiastically structured. Cf. S. D. Snyman, “Chiasmes in Mal. 1:2–5,” Skrif en Kerk (Jan. 1984) 17–22; idem, “Haat Jahwe vir Esau? (’n Verkenning van Mal. 1:3a),” NGTT 25 (1984) 358–62.

 3 The interrogative particle connected with the negative, halōʾ, presupposes an answer in the affirmative: “Was not (Esau) a brother?” Answer: “Yes, of course.” Cf. A. van Selms, “The Inner Cohesion of the Book of Malachi,” in Studies in Old Testament Prophecy, OTWSA, ed. W. C. van Wyk (Potchefstroom: Pro Rege, 1975), pp. 27–40.

 4 In Hebrew the preposition le before “Jacob” denotes the genitive construction after the indefinite word ʾậ: “a brother of Jacob.” Cf. GKC, § 129.

 5 The proposition to delete neʾum YHWH metri causa (BHK) is unnecessary. This expression occurs only once in this passage, but it conforms to Malachi’s general appeal to divine authority (so, rightly, J. M. P. Smith).

 6 Sentences 4 and 5 (vv. 2d, 3a) are chiastically structured: I have loved … Jacob Esau … I have hated. Sentences 3–5 (vv. 2c–3) are mutually connected through the names of Esau and Jacob, the sequence of which also has a chiastic pattern.

 7 The Hebrew verb governs two accusatives: “I have put his mountains to a wasteland.” The imperfect with waw-consecutive refers to facts of history; cf. GKC, § 111.

 8 The LXX has “his borders,” but this is obviously a slip of the pen, the translator having chosen a word with a similar sound but with the wrong meaning (tá hória autoú instead of tá oreiá autoú).

 9 See the commentary below on this translation.

 10 The Kî has conditional force: “supposing that,” “if.” See GKC, § 159bb; see also Vulg., Pesh., and Targ.

 11 Lit. “we shall return and we shall build.” For our translation, see the commentary below and GKC, § 120d.

 12 Sentences 7 and 8 (v. 4a and b) are structured as an antithetical parallelism, with antithetical elements within each sentence: the intention of Edom against the resolution of the Lord. Cf. crushed/rebuild (sentence 7); they/I, build/demolish (sentence 8). Sentences 6–9 (vv. 3b–4) form a separate unit, which is dominated by words of judgment against Edom. Sentences 6 and 9 (vv. 3b and 4e) are structured as a synonymous parallelism, and the whole of this unit is an expansion of sentence 5: “but Esau I have hated.”

 13 Lit. “And they will call them.” The third person plural is sometimes used to express an indefinite subject, which can be rendered by a passive: “They will be called.” See GKC, § 144f, g. There is, therefore, no need to alter the text.

 14 Heb. yig̱dal, Qal 3rd singular imperfect (not jussive), in the active sense of “to be great,’ “to manifest oneself as great.” Sentences 10 and 11 (v. 5) are substantially the antithesis of sentence 2, “But you say, in what manner have you loved us?”

 15 Heb. mēʿal means “over,” “above,” “upon”; see LXX hyperánō and Vulg. super. Many modern versions (NBG, RSV, NEB, NIV) and scholars (Reinke, pp. 246–47; Pressel, p. 378; G. A. Smith; Marti; Lattey; Smit; Brockington; Brandenburg; Edgar; etc.) prefer the rendering “beyond.” See the commentary below. The suggestion to read geḇûl, instead of lig̱eḇûl, is based on an alleged dittography of le (see BHS).

 16 So, e.g., Keil; J. M. P. Smith; N. Ridderbos, in De Bijbel … van verklarende aantekeningen voorzien, vol. 2 (Kampen: Kok, 1954). Von Bulmerincq unjustly disconnected this passage from the following, dating it in ca. 485 B.C. (pp. 132–36).

 17 See GKC, § 106g; Driver, Tenses, § 11.

 18 Cf. N. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (London: Epworth, 1944; repr. New York: Schocken, 1975), p. 131.

 19 Cf. Quell, in TDNT, 1:22; W. L. Moran, “The Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Love of God in Deuteronomy,” CBQ 25 (1963) 77–87.

 20 Quell, in TDNT, 1:22. Cf. also J. Ziegler, Die Liebe Gottes bei den Propheten, Alttestamentliche Abhandlungen 11/3 (Munister: Aschendorffse Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1930); D. W. Thomas, “The Root ʾhb in Hebrew,” ZAW 57 (1939) 57–64; G. Wallis, in TDOT, 1:101–18; E. Jenni, in THAT, 1:60–73.

 21 Snaith, op. cit., p. 132.

 22 See W. Jennings, Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1926).

 23 According to C. Westermann, Elements of Old Testament Theology, tr. D. W. Stott (Atlanta: John Knox, 1982), p. 41, “election” is a static concept, which originated by way of “subsequent reflection [nachträglicher Reflexion] … looking back from a distance.” The locus classicus Deut. 7:6–8 shows plainly, he says, the interpretative character of the concept of election. We cannot agree with Westermann, because of the hypothetical nature of his point of view. God’s act of love and of choosing Israel presupposes a dynamic and living relationship.

 24 So N. Peters, Die Religion des AT (Munchen: J. Kosel and F. Pustet, 1920), p. 30; F. Buck, Die Liebe Gottes beim Propheten Osea (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1953); J. Ziegler, Liebe Gottes.

 25 Cf. Snaith, op. cit., p. 95.

 26 Cf. E. Pfeiffer, “Die Disputationsworte im Buche Maleachi,” EvT 19 (1959) 546–68; H. J. Boecker, “Bemerkungen zur formgeschichtlichen Terminologie des Buches Maleachi,” ZAW 78 (1966) 78–80.

 27 Cf. B. Duhm, Die Theologie der Propheten als Grundlage für die innere Entwicklungsgeschichte der israelitischen Religion (Bonn: Verlag von Adolph Marcus, 1875), p. 319; P. Volck, in Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, ed. J. J. Herzog, rev. A. Hauck (Leipzig: Hinrich, 1903), XII:110. According to Duhm the book of Malachi reflects the poverty (Armuth) of that time, as shown, e.g., by his style.

 28 So R. Rendtorff, in RGG, IV:628–29.

 29 For Greek authors see S. L. Edgar, p. 98; for Paul see E. P. Groenewald, “Die tweegesprekas verkondigingsmetode by Paulus,” NGTT 4 (1962) 325–36.

 30 Cf. A. H. Edelkoort, De Christusverwachting in het Oude Testament (Wageningen: H. Veenman, 1941), p. 473; Baldwin, p. 214, declares: “It is extremely unlikely that the words he puts into the mouth of his opponents were in fact voiced.”

 31 Adamson, “Malachi,” in NBC, p. 764.

 32 Cf. Gen. 15:8; Exod. 33:16; Quell, op. cit.,p. 34 n. 71; H. Brandenburg: “How (do we recognize) that you love us?”

 33 See n. 3 above.

 34 See n. 4 above.

 35 Cf. G. J. Botterweck, “Jakob habe ich lieb—Esau hasse ich,” BibLeb 1 (1960) 36–38; S. D. Snyman, “Haat Jahwe vir Esau?”, pp. 358–62.

 36 Edgar, pp. 99–100.

 37 Brockington, p. 656.

 38 Laetsch, p. 512; also Elliger, ATD.

 39 Cf. Kruse, “Die dialektische negation als semitisches Idiom,” VT 4 (1954) 385–400.

 40 Cf. G. C. Berkouwer, De Verkiezing Gods (Kampen: Kok, 1955), p. 77.

 41 Michel, in TDNT, IV:691.

 42 Cf. Schrenk, in TDNT, IV:179: “The reference here is not to salvation, but to position and to historical task.” See also Botterweck, op. cit.: “Like Rom. 9:10–13, Mal. 1:3 does not refer to predestination.” Cf. also Reinke; Laetsch; H. N. Ridderbos, Romeinen (Kampen: Kok, 1959), p. 228.

 43 Cf. H. Velema, Uitverkiezen en uitverkiesing in net NT (Kampen: Kok, 1965).

 44 Snyman, “Haat Jahwe vir Esau,” p. 361, rightly draws attention to the chiastic and literary structure of the pericope, in which God’s pronounced love and hate function. The focus is more on God’s love for Jacob, not so much on his hate for Edom.

 45 Cf. H. Velema, Uitverkiezen en uitverkiesing in het NT (Kampen: Kok, 1965), p. 111.

 46 This does not imply that Edom’s inheritance was initially a wasteland, although this may be suggested by the privative min in Gen. 27:39: “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness” (NIV). It became a wasteland and ruins because of God’s judgment.

 47 See Gemser, Hebreeuse Spraakkuns, § 95a n. 2.

 48 So J. C. de Moor, De Propheet Maleachi (Amsterdam: Kirberger and Kesper, 1903), pp. 73–74.

 49 Cf. Josephus Ant. 10.9.7 (180–85); also M. Noth, The History of Israel,
2nd ed., tr. rev. P. Ackroyd (London: Black; New York: Harper and Row, 1960), pp.

 50 Cf. C. C. Torrey, “the Edomites in Southern Judah,” JBL 27 (1898) 18.

 51 Cf. B. Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel (Berlin: G. Grote, 1888), 2:112; G. A. Smith, p. 645.

 52 First mentioned by Gratz, “Die Anfänge des Nabataer—Herrschaft,” in Monatschrift für Wissenschaft und Geschichte des Judenthums (1875), pp. 60–66. Cf. also P. C. Hammond, The Nabataeans—Their History, Culture and Archaeology, Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 37 (Gothenburg: P. Aström, 1973); J. I. Lawlor, The Nabataeans in Historical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974).

 53 According to Torrey, op. cit., the Nabatean invasion of Edom’s territory started in the 7th century B.C., and according to S. Cohen, in IDE, 111:491, it may have been in the 6th century.

 54 The first reference is found in the legends of Antigonus’s campaigns in 312 B.C., as it was told by the Greek author Diodorus (Diodorus Siculus 19, pp. 94–100).

 55 Cf. G. Smit, p. 142; Laetsch, p. 513; Deden, p. 306; Dentan, p. 1124.

 56 See GKC, § 159bb.

 57 See GKC, § 120d.

 58 Cf. Oskar Holtzmann, “Der Prophet Maleachi und der Ursprung des Pharisäerbundes,” Archiv für Religionswissenschaft 19 (1931) 8; Laetsch, p. 209; N. Glueck, The Other Side of the Jordan (New Haven: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1940), p. 200.

 59 According to E. Wendland, “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi,” BT 36 (1985) 120–21, the “epiphoric pressure exerted from 1:11 and 1:14 with regard to the repeated phrases, ‘my name’ and ‘among the nations,’ would lead one to see a corresponding pair in 1:5, viz. ‘Yahweh’ and ‘beyond the border of Israel’ (rather than ‘over the border of Israel’).” This interpretation, of course, is possible, but the internal structure of the pericope in 1:2–5 favors our conclusion. This is endorsed by Snyman in his doctoral thesis, “Antiteses in die boek Maleagi,” p. 81.