Malachi 1:11 And The Worship Of The Nations In The Old Testament -- By: J. G. Baldwin

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 23:1 (NA 1972)
Article: Malachi 1:11 And The Worship Of The Nations In The Old Testament
Author: J. G. Baldwin

Malachi 1:11 And The Worship Of The Nations In The Old Testament*

J. G. Baldwin

* A paper first given on io September 1971 at a conference of the Evangelical Fellowship for Missionary Studies, held at Crowther Hall, Selly Oak, Birmingham.

‘For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts’ (RSV).

On the face of it this verse appears to express divine approval of heathen worship, and indeed this is the way in which it has been taken by the majority of interpreters during the last hundred years. J. M. P. Smith may be regarded as typical: ‘The view that this statement reflects the author’s conviction that the gods of the heathen were only so many different names for the one great God and that the nations were therefore in reality worshipping Yahweh finds many supporters.’1 In a footnote he names as supporters F. Hitzig, J. Wellhausen, C. C. Torrey, W. Nowack and K. Marti, the last and latest of whom was writing in 1910. More recently many others have endorsed this interpretation, including, surprisingly, Jewish writers. J. H. Hertz, the late Chief Rabbi, paraphrases the verse ‘Even the heathen nations that worship the heavenly hosts pay tribute to a Supreme Being, and in this way honour My name; and the offerings which they thus present (indirectly) unto Me are animated by a pure spirit, God looking on the heart of the worshipper.’2 Rabbi Eli Cashdan comments ‘There is the magnificent recognition by Malachi that all sincere heathen worship is in reality offered to the one God of all the earth (i:11). This sublime thought is characteristic of the universalism of Judaism and was a theme later developed by the Rabbis.’3

Among more recent Christian writers R. H. Pfeiffer remarks on Malachi’s ‘religious liberalism unparalleled in the Old Testament’.4 R. C. Dentan sees originality and greatness in Malachi’s ‘magnificent and unparalleled assertion that all true worship, even that of the heathen, who think that they are worshipping other gods, is really offered to Yahweh, who is the God not only of Israel but of the whole earth’,5 and W. Neil says, ‘We may be grateful to this unknown author . . . for his daring and, for those times, astounding recognition that worship offered in sincerity and truth un...

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