Malachi and The Question of Love
“‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’ ‘Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob.’”
(Malachi 1:2, ESV).
In this opening theme of Malachi, God shows Israel his love for them, by calling them by the name of their ancestor Jacob. Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28-29) was the father of the 12 sons that would later become the nation of Israel. The Israelites were the heirs to the messianic promises. It was through the seed (singular) of Abraham that all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:7 cf Galatians 3:16). This seed and the covenant were passed from Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob, and from Jacob to the Children of Israel.
This covenant promise showed the faithfulness of God towards the children of Israel. Even when he threatened to destroy them completely, Moses pleaded saying in part:
Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.” Exodus 32:12b-13
This theme recurs throughout the entire Old Testament. The covenant people: punished but not destroyed. Judges is the perfect illustration of this pattern. Here, the writer illustrates a pattern of “apostasy,” “servitude,” “supplication,” and “salvation.” (Howard). The writer cites Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Sampson as the examples of this pattern. We can also talk of the period between Samuel and David, the events surrounding the decline leading to the times of Elijah and Elisha, the captivity of Israel by Assyria, Medo-Persia and Babylon, the return and reform under Ezra, Nehemiah, and Joshua the High Priest, and the current re-visitation of apostasy in the times of Malachi. We can go further and speak of the servitude of the Jews under Alexander the Great, (Wein, Alexander the Great) the Seleucid Empire (Wein, The Hell in Hellenism), and The Roman Empire (see the New Testament). These are setups for the salvation phase, however, this time, Israel rejected her savior.
Meanwhile there is Esau, Jacob’s elder brother, to whom belonged both the birthright and the blessing. His descendants are the Edomites (see Genesis 25:30). He sold his birthright and was tricked out of his blessing. Thus being cheated, his blessing at the hands of his father was that of service to his brother, of which at sometime in the future he would become liberated.
Edom is described as the eternal enemy of Israel (and Judah, Amos 1:11; Ezek. 35:5) who not only always oppressed Israel, but at the time of the destruction of the First Temple took advantage of the situation and seized control of parts of Judah (Ezek. 25:12; 35:5, 10, 2; Obad. 11–16), and it is hinted that Edom also took part in the destruction of Jerusalem (Ps. 137:7; Obad. 11) and even in that of the Temple itself (Obad. 16).
(Herr and Ehrlich)
By comparing the two nations, God gives the nation of Israel indication of his preferences of the righteous over the wicked, showing that despite their history, God’s sovereign promise rests with Israel and he prefers them over all other nations. He loves them even though they don’t deserve it, as we see in the next question.