What does Malachi 1:6 mean?
ESV: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’
NIV: A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?' says the LORD Almighty. 'It is you priests who show contempt for my name. 'But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?'
NASB: ?‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of armies to you, the priests who despise My name! But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’
CSB: "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 the Lord of Armies to you priests, who despise my name."Yet you ask, "How have we despised your name? "
NLT: The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: 'A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! 'But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’
KJV: A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
NKJV: “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
Verse Commentary:
Normal human experience tells us that fathers ought to be respected by their sons. The same is true of those who serve with respect to their superiors. Since that's obvious between different people, it ought to be all the more obvious between people and God. There is no possible excuse for disrespect when the guilty ones are priests—the very people given the most knowledge of God and His expectations. This is similar to the accusation Jesus will make of Israel's religious leaders in Matthew chapter 23.

The allegation here is that these well-informed men are "despising" the name of God. As in verses 2 and 3, the extreme here is meant to show a contrast. The priests "despise" the name of God in the sense that they don't give Him the honor He is due. In addition, the response shows a lack of trust in God. The expression of doubt—"how?"—proves that Israel is not only far from God, they are indifferent to Him. They even doubt the truth of His words.

Verse 7 will explain the specific sin of the priesthood. The disrespect of the priests is summarized in their incorrect, apathetic sacrifices. Old Testament law was clear about the kind of offerings God expected (Leviticus 22:17–33). One modern application of this passage is to consider the obligations required of spiritual leaders (2 Peter 2:1). Church leaders are placed under higher scrutiny, since they have a great influence on the discipleship of others (James 3:1; Malachi 2:7).
Verse Context:
Malachi 1:6—2:9 is directed specifically at the priests of Israel. Despite having knowledge of the Old Testament Law, they are offering improper sacrifices to God. Instead of following the requirements for pure offerings, they are sacrificing animals so defective that a mere politician would not accept them. This shows their apathy and disrespect towards God. In response, God warns that He will be praised properly, even if it's by the Gentiles, even if it's in spite of His own chosen people. This includes a threat to humiliate the priesthood, if they don't lead the people as they have been instructed.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 1 begins the first of three main messages in the book of Malachi. This is addressed to the priests, who have failed to do their duty. They are allowing improper sacrifices, they are not teaching the people, and they are acting in legalism and apathy. If the priests do not change, they will be under the curse of God. God's love for Israel is demonstrated by the counter-example of Edom. Edom's complete destruction was foretold in the book of Obadiah. This shows that God can punish disobedience with annihilation, but has not done so for Israel.
Chapter Context:
Malachi's structure is complex, and chapter divisions are not helpful in seeing the pattern. There are three primary messages in this book, the first running from Malachi 1:2 through Malachi 2:9. Most of chapter one is the first message, directed to the priests of Israel. This is an important first step, since the priests were responsible for teaching the people. Failures by the priests would inevitably lead to failures by the people. The second and third messages are delivered more generally to the nation of Israel.
Book Summary:
Malachi is the last message of prophecy given to Israel prior to 400 years of silence. Israel has rebuilt the temple, following the invasions of Babylon, but they are still under foreign oppression. Israel's spiritual condition, however, is dire. Hosea depicted Israel as prone to failure, but repentant. Later, Ezekiel exposed Israel's blatant disobedience. By the time of Malachi, Israel has passed into numbness and apathy. Unlike other Old Testament prophets, Malachi takes the form of a dialogue, where Israel responds to accusations as if unaware that they've occurred. The next prophetic voice from God would not come until the ministry of John the Baptist.
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