Comment on Malachi 2:10

I have been asked how I “handle” Malachi 2:10 with respect to the Father as Creator. We should be wary of handling scripture in a decontextualised “verse-against-verse” way that seeks a specific counterargument to a given verse, pitting passages against each other. I hope to avoid this; God is not the author of confusion and we should not take any of his words out of their scriptural context. I assume that this verse has put forward to challenge the orthodox view that the Son was directly involved as Creator, so the “answer” will involve more than just an “explanation” of the meaning of a single verse, as if one interpretation of this passage could topple the whole scriptural testimony to the role of the Son. I will try to be succinct, so for a fuller treatment of these doctrines I refer the reader to previous blogs, “Created by him and for him,” and “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Malachi 2:10 in the ESV reads, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?”

There are two occurrences of the word “father” in this verse. Both are derivatives of ab in Hebrew, and both are translated pater in LXX Greek. It makes sense that both could be referring to the same person(s). The latter occurrence of ab/pater refers to the forefathers of the Jewish race, as elsewhere in Malachi 2 (Levi, Judah, Jacob) and with reference to Israel’s breaking of the covenant. It could readily be argued that the context requires “have we not all one father,” to be speaking of Israel’s forefathers, in keeping with the rest of the Old Testament. But even if we take it that the first ab/pater refers to God the Creator, does this actually conflict with recognition of the Son as the agent of creation?

Firstly, let us argue for the first “father” in this passage being God the Creator. There are certainly many references to “the Lord” in Malachi, in relation to God’s covenant which Israel broke. In verse 15 these is a reference to the immediate post-creation event where the Lord made man and woman one by the covenant of marriage. The men of Israel had been breaking the marriage covenant by being faithless to their wives, just as they had broken God’s covenant of life and peace. “Judah has been faithless… for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and married the daughter of a foreign god” (v.11). “The Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (v.14). “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring… do not be faithless” (v.15).

Malachi is paralleling two types of covenant unfaithfulness, of Israel toward God and of Israel toward their wives. Usually, God takes the role of a husband when using unfaithfulness and adultery as metaphors for Israel’s idolatry and unfaithfulness, but here he assumes the parallel role to the wife. The union of husband and wife was always intended as an unbreakable covenant that produced godly offspring. Just as God’s covenant with Israel was intended to be lasting and to produce godly offspring. In Ezekiel 16 God takes the role of betrayed husband and denounces the harlotries of Israel, including her slaughtering his children which she bore as an offering to the gods who were her lovers. So it is not unreasonable that the “one father” of Israel could be God. In Malachi 3 we meet the “Messenger of the (new) covenant,” who is none other than the Lord himself.

The Old Testament gives us glimpses of plurality and complexity in God, but only in Christ are Father, Son and Spirit fully disclosed. It is Jesus who fully introduces the concept of God as a loving Father, whose children we become by adoption through his one and only Son. God rarely speaks of himself as “Father” in the Old Testament, and when he does it is always as the Father of someone, in relationship. God is not the “father of creation” in an abstract sense, like an earth mother goddess or pagan deity who gave birth to components of the material world. Creation was not an act of procreation. Nor is God the “Father” of Israel in the same sense as he is the Father of Jesus Christ his Son. Israel is his by adoption, election or “betrothal.” In other words, by his sovereign choice. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son,” God says in Hosea (11:1).

Perhaps the most explicit use of “father” to describe God’s relationship with Israel is Deuteronomy 32:6, which parallels Malachi 2:10 in calling God both “father” and “creator:” “Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” Malachi is probably referring to this passage in 2:10, because the context of Deuteronomy is Israel’s predicted rejection of God’s covenant. Subsequently in Malachi, the “Messenger of the Covenant” is announced, the Lord who Israel sought, who will suddenly come to his temple. I have explained this passage in the blog “The Day of the Lord in Malachi,” where the coming Messenger is in fact the Lord God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, the purifier of the covenant-breaking sons of Levi.

So, given the abundant Old Testament references to God as Creator and the fewer references to God as Father, does this pose a contradiction to the Son/Word’s involvement in Creation? The New Testament teaches that the Father is God (Matt 23:9; John 8:54; 20:17; 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 4:6) the Son is God (Col 1:15–17; Heb 1:3,8,10; John 1:1–2, 14; 20:28; Rev 22:13 and many more) and the Holy Spirit is God (Psa 104:30; Isa 63:7–14; Acts 5:3–4; 1 Cor 3:16–17 & 6:19–20; John 16:7–11, 13; Rom 15:16, 19; Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Pet 1:2 and elsewhere; see “The Other Comforter”). But Father, Son and Spirit do not work autonomously. What one does, the others do, because God is a unity; he is one divine Being (Deut 6:4–5; Isa 44:5; 45:5; Rom 1:25; 1 Cor 8:5–6, Col 1:16 and elsewhere, also “Hear O Israel, God is One”).

The Son does whatever the Father does (John 5:19; 8:29; 14:10) and they share everything, including the glory that God will give to no other (Isa 42:8; 48:11; John 5:23; 8:54; 13:31–32; 17:5; Heb 1:3 and see “A Shared Glory“). Creation is ascribed to Christ (Col 1:15–17; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 1:3, 8, 10) and to the Father and the Spirit. In Genesis we read of the Spirit hovering over the primeval waters and in John of the Word being in the beginning, with God and as God. So yes, the Father is the Creator, but so is the Son and the Spirit, because God is not divided. Old Testament Israel knew God as “the Lord,” not yet as Father, Son and Spirit, but in all the works of the Godhead in creation and in redemption, Father, Son and Spirit have always worked together. The full revelation of this is only hinted at in Malachi, to be revealed in the coming of the Lord of Hosts, the Messenger of the everlasting covenant.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s