Psychopathic reasoning and Malachi’s rebuke of the priests
The arrogant start with the false premise that service to God has to bring them worldly rewards. Once you accept that false premise, there is a certain logic to their reasoning.
Psychopaths are incapable of doing good. They are driven to cause harm – evil. They believe that whatever they do is good, therefore they believe “evil is good”.
Here is how they reason:
“Doing what we do is good. Therefore anyone doing what we don’t (can’t) do is bad. Going against us is bad. If you don’t go along with our system and co-operate with us, you are evil. Anyone who questions or admonishes us must be bad. Therefore, it is good to fight back against all such questioners; it is good to destroy them.”
The insanity does have a certain logic, once you accept the erroneous premises.
The book of Malachi is largely about men abusing God, and men abusing their wives.
Chapter 1 denounces the priests for dishonouring God. The priests were scornfully questioning God’s love. They were complaining about having to do the ceremonial sacrifices. They were presenting defiled food on the altar.
(Mal. 1:6-14 HCSB) “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me? says Yahweh of Hosts to you priests, who despise My name.”
Yet you ask: “How have we despised Your name?”
7 “By presenting defiled food on My altar.”
You ask: “How have we defiled You?”
When you say: “The Lord’s table is contemptible.”
8 “When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?” asks the Lord of Hosts. 9 “And now ask for God’s favor. Will He be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?” asks the Lord of Hosts. 10 “I wish one of you would shut the temple doors, so you would no longer kindle a useless fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.
11 “For My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations,” says Yahweh of Hosts.
12 But you are profaning it when you say: “The Lord’s table is defiled, and its product, its food, is contemptible.” 13 You also say: “Look, what a nuisance!” “And you scorn it,” says the Lord of Hosts. “You bring stolen, lame, or sick animals. You bring this as an offering! Am I to accept that from your hands?” asks the Lord.
14 “The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord. For I am a great King,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “and My name will be feared among the nations.”
I love the caustic, sarcastic tone God uses to admonish the priests. Psychopaths don’t bat an eyelid if you gently rebuke them. But they can be stung by mockery. They won’t change, but they are at least stung.
In chapter 2, God warns the priests he will curse them if they don’t heed his instructions. He rebukes them for causing many to stumble by showing partiality in their instruction.
(2:1-3) “Therefore, this decree is for you priests: If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart to honor My name,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “I will send a curse among you … I will spread animal waste [dung or entrails] over your faces, the waste from your festival sacrifices, and you will be taken away with it.”
… (7-9) For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.
“You, on the other hand, have turned from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have violated [corrupted] the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of Hosts. “So I in turn have made you despised and humiliated before all the people because you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in your instruction.”
Chapter 2 continues with Malachi detailing the two-fold nature of their treachery: spiritual abuse (spiritual adultery) and wife abuse.
“Therefore, this decree is for you priests: 2 If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart to honor My name,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “I will send a curse among you, and I will curse your blessings. In fact, I have already begun to curse them because you are not taking it to heart.
3 “Look, I am going to rebuke your descendants, and I will spread animal waste [dung or entrails] over your faces, the waste from your festival sacrifices, and you will be taken away with it. … 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.
8 “You, on the other hand, have turned from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have violated [corrupted] the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of Hosts. 9 “So I in turn have made you despised and humiliated before all the people because you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in your instruction.
10 Don’t all of us have one Father? Didn’t one God create us? Why then do we act treacherously against one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has acted treacherously, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the Lord’s sanctuary, which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god [= a woman who worshiped a foreign god].
… 13 And this is another thing you do: you cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning, because He no longer respects your offerings or receives them gladly from your hands.
14 Yet you ask, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant. 15 Didn’t the one God make us with a remnant of His life-breath? And what does the One seek? [Hebrew obscure] A godly offspring. So watch yourselves carefully [So guard yourselves in your spirit], and do not act treacherously against the wife of your youth.
…17 You have wearied the Lord with your words.
Yet you ask, “How have we wearied Him?”
When you say, “Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”
The priests were saying, “God is bad because he is going against us. He is not blessing us enough. The abusive situation (evil) should continue and this is good. Doing evil is good. It doesn’t pay to obey God. It is wearisome to obey God. We want to keep swapping defective animals for unblemished animals when we do the ceremonial sacrifices. And we want to keep mistreating our wives. God is unfair to admonish us. God is arguing against us, therefore God is evil.”
Malachi blames the abusive priests for causing the altar to be covered with tears: “this is another thing you do” — the word ‘you’ is plural in the Hebrew. So these priests’ souls are in great jeopardy. Power corrupts.
Other denunciations of hypocrisy come to mind:
(Jeremiah 7:9-10) Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’?
(Hosea 5:2) The revolters are deeply involved in slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.
(Romans 1:28-32) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Square brackets in grey denote footnotes in the HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible).
This post is an excerpt from what I am drafting for the revised chapter on Malachi which I am composing for the revised edition of my book. Hopefully this will give readers an understanding of what I’ve been doing in the last several weeks and why I have not been posting many blog posts.
Melbourne is enduring a 6-week Stage 4 Lockdown. The restrictions on our movement are extreme. I’m surviving, but I hate the isolation and I dislike having to wear a mask in public.
Thanks to my friend James (one of our regular commenters) for giving me some of the ideas in this post.
Update (13 Nov 2020): Malachi 2:16, ancient versions and English translations, and how they apply to domestic abuse — academic paper by Barbara Roberts