2. The Prophet now turns his discourse to the godly; and hence it appears more clearly that he has been hitherto threatening those gross hypocrites who arrogated sanctity to themselves alone, while yet they were continuing to provoke God’s wrath; for he evidently addresses some different from those previously spoken of, when he says, Arise to you, &c.; he separates those who feared God, or the true servants of God, from that multitude with whom he has been hitherto contending. Arise, then, to you who fear my name, &c.
There is to be noticed here a contrast; for the body of the people were infected as it were with a general contagion, but God had preserved a few uncontaminated. As then he had been hitherto contending with the greatest part of the people, so he now gathers as it were apart the chosen few, and promises to them Christ as the author of salvation. For the godly, we know, trembled at threatenings, and would have almost fainted, had not God mitigated them. Whenever he denounced vengeance on sinners, the greater part either mocked, or became angry, at least were not duly impressed. Thus it happens that while God is thundering, the ungodly go on securely in their sinful courses; but the godly tremble at a word, and would be altogether cast down, were not God to apply a remedy.
Hence our Prophet softens the severity of the threatening which we have observed; as though he had said, that he had not announced the coming of Christ as terrible for the purpose of filling pious souls with fear, (for it was not spoken to them,) but only of terrifying the ungodly. The sum of the whole is briefly this—“Hearken ye,” he says, “who fear God; for I have a different word for you, and that is, that the Sun of righteousness shall arise, which will bring healing in its wings. Let those despisers of God then perish, who, though they carry on war with him, yet seek to have him as it were bound to them; but raise ye up your heads, and patiently look for that day, and with the hope of it calmly bear your troubles.” We now understand the import of this verse.
There is indeed no doubt but that Malachi calls Christ the Sun of righteousness; and a most suitable term it is, when we consider how the condition of the fathers differed from ours. God has always given light to his Church, but Christ brought the full light, according to what Isaiah teaches us, “On thee shall Jehovah arise, and the glory of God shall be seen in thee.” (Is. 60:12.) This can be applied to none but to Christ. Again he says, “Behold darkness shall cover the earth,” &c.; “shine on thee shall Jehovah;” and farther, “There shall be now no sun by day nor moon by night; but God alone shall give thee light.” (Is. 60:19.) All these words show that Sun is a name appropriate to Christ; for God the Father has given a much clearer light in the person of Christ than formerly by the law, and by all the appendages of the law. And for this reason also is Christ called the light of the world; not that the fathers wandered as the blind in darkness, but that they were content with the dawn only, or with the moon and stars. We indeed know how obscure was the doctrine of the law, so that it may truly be said to be shadowy. When therefore the heavens became at length opened and clear by means of the gospel, it was through the rising of the Sun, which brought the full day; and hence it is the peculiar office of Christ to illuminate. And on this account it is said in the first chapter of John, that he was from the beginning the true light, which illuminates every man that cometh into the world, and yet that it was a light shining in darkness; for some sparks of reason continue in men, however blinded they are become through the fall of Adam and the corruption of nature. But Christ is peculiarly called light with regard to the faithful, whom he delivers from the blindness in which all are involved by nature, and whom he undertakes to guide by his Spirit.
The meaning then of the word sun, when metaphorically applied to Christ, is this,—that he is called a sun, because without him we cannot but wander and go astray, but that by his guidance we shall keep in the right way; and hence he says, “He who follows me walks not in darkness.” (John 8:12.)
But we must observe that this is not to be confined to the person of Christ, but extended to the gospel. Hence Paul says, “Awake thou who sleepest, and rise from darkness, and Christ shall illuminate thee.” (Eph. 5:14.) Christ then daily illuminates us by his doctrine and his Spirit; and though we see him not with our eyes, yet we find by experience that he is a sun.
He is called the sun of righteousness, either because of his perfect rectitude, in whom there is nothing defective, or because the righteousness of God is conspicuous in him: and yet, that we may know the light, derived from him, which proceeds from him to us and irradiates us, we are not to regard the transient concerns of this life, but what belongs to the spiritual life. The first thing is, that Christ performs towards us the office of a sun, not to guide our feet and hands as to what is earthly, but that he brings light to us, to show the way to heaven, and that by its means we may come to the enjoyment of a blessed and eternal life. We must secondly observe, that this spiritual light cannot be separated from righteousness; for how does Christ become our sun? It is by regenerating us by his Spirit into righteousness, by delivering us from the pollutions of the world, by renewing us after the image of God. We now then see the import of the word righteousness.
He adds, And healing in its wings. He gives the name of wings to the rays of the sun; and this comparison has much beauty, for it is taken from nature, and most fitly applied to Christ. There is nothing, we know, more cheering and healing than the rays of the sun; for ill-savour would soon overwhelm us, even within a day, were not the sun to purge the earth from its dregs; and without the sun there would be no respiration. We also feel a sort of relief at the rising of the sun; for the night is a kind of burden. When the sun sets, we feel as it were a heaviness in all our members; and the sick are exhilarated in the morning and experience a change from the influence of the sun; for it brings to us healing in its wing. But the Prophet has expressed what is still more,—that a clear sun in a serene sky brings healing; for there is an implied opposition between a cloudy or stormy time and a clear and bright season. During time of serenity we are far more cheerful, whether we be in health or in sickness; and there is no one who does not derive some cheerfulness from the serenity of the heavens: but when it is cloudy, even the most healthy feels some inconvenience.
According to this view Malachi now says, that there would be healing in the wings of Christ, inasmuch as many evils were to be borne by the true servants of God; for if we consider the history of those times, it will appear that the condition of that people was most grievous. He now promises a change to them; for the restoration of the Church would bring them joy. See then in what way he meant there would be healing in the wings of Christ; for the darkness would be dissipated, and the heavens would be free from clouds, so as to exhilarate the minds of the godly.
By calling the godly those who fear God, he adopts the common language of Scripture; for we have said that the chief part of righteousness and holiness consists in the true worship of God: but something new is here expressed; for this fear is what peculiarly belongs to true religion, so that men submit to God, though he is invisible, though he does not address them face to face, though he does not openly show his hand armed with scourges. When therefore men of their own accord reverence the glory of God, and acknowledge that the world is governed by him, and that they are under his authority, this is a real evidence of true religion: and this is what the Prophet means by name. Hence they who fear the name of God, desire not to draw him down from heaven, nor seek manifest signs of his presence, but suffer their faith to be thus tried, so that they adore and worship God, though they see him not face to face, but only through a mirror and that darkly, and also through the displays of his power, justice, and other attributes, which are evident before our eyes.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast appointed thine only-begotten Son to be like a sun to us, we may not be blind, so as not to see his brightness; and that since he is pleased to guide us daily into the way of salvation, may we follow him and never be detained by any of the impediments of this world, so as not to pursue after that celestial life to which thou invitest us; and that as thou hast promised that he is to come and gather us into the eternal inheritance, may we not in the meantime grow wanton, but on the contrary watch with diligence and be ever attentively looking for him; and may we not reject the favour which thou hast been pleased to offer us in him, and thus grow torpid in our dregs, but on the contrary be stimulated to fear thy name and truly to worship thee, until we shall at length obtain the fruit of our faith and piety, when he shall appear again for our final redemption, even that sun which has already appeared to us, in order that we might not remain involved in darkness, but hold on our way in the midst of darkness, even the way which leads us to heaven.—Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Eighty-Second
Malachi, after having said that the Sun of righteousness would arise on the Jews, now adds that it would be for their joy, for as sorrow lays hold on the faithful when they are without Christ, or when they think him far removed from them, so his favour is their chief happiness and real joy. Hence the angel when he made known to the shepherds that Christ was born, thus introduces his message, “Behold, I declare to you great joy.” (Luke 2:10.)
Now though the comparison might seem rather unnatural, yet it was not without reason that the Prophet said that the Jews would be like fattened calves, for the change of which he speaks was incredible; hence it was necessary that the subject should be stated in a very homely manner, that they might entertain hope.
There is in the words going forth, an implied contrast, for anxiety had long held them as it were captives, but now they were to go forth and be at liberty, according to what takes place when things change for the better; we then openly declare our joy to one another, and we seek as it were a wide place for giving vent to our feelings. We now see why the Prophet says that the Jews would go forth: they had been before confined as it were within narrow limits, but God would now give them occasion for rejoicing, according to what Paul says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor. 3:17.) It follows—
20 (2) The Day of the Lord will be “the ultimate stroke of judgment” for the evildoers (v. 19 [Eng. 4:1]), but at the same time “the crown of salvation” for those who revere the name of God (vv. 20, 21 [4:2, 3]). On the one hand his judgment will burn like a furnace, but on the other hand his righteousness will shine forth like the sun. On this “day” the distinction between the righteous and the wicked (v. 18) will reach its climax.
This verse is one of the most significant texts in the prophecy of Malachi. At the same time it represents an exegetical labyrinth for the interpreter.
The direct speech (lāḵem, “for you”) probably refers to v. 16. The addressees are “those who feared the Lord.” The initial waw is interpreted either as “then” or as “but.” We prefer, along with most interpreters and nearly all modem versions, the adversative meaning: But for you who revere my name. The crux of the interpretation is what the shining forth of the sun of righteousness really means.
This problem has a number of aspects. First, the specific relationship between the words sun and righteousness. There are several possibilities. The word “sun” can be seen as an accusative of condition, explicating the manner in which the righteousness will shine forth, namely “like a sun.” This interpretation, incidentally, will in a way explain the inconsistency between the masculine “sun” and the feminine verb, “shine forth.” The second possible interpretation is to explain the relationship between the two words as a genitivus epexegeticus or appositionis. “Righteousness” is here the subject and “sun” the nearer definition. If one wants to appreciate the “righteousness” one will have to visualize the “shining sun.”
The rendering of the ancient versions assumes a genitive relationship: “the sun of righteousness.” The LXX has hḗlios dikaiosýnēs, and the Vulgate sol iustitiae. A number of scholars agree with this interpretation but differ in their explanation of this genitive. According to Calvin, et al., it is a genitive of quality: the sun that consists of righteousness. Cocceius, et al., consider the genitive to be a genitive of working: the sun that produces righteousness. A third explanation regards the genitive as one of definition: the sun which is righteousness. In all these explanations the emphasis is on the sun, with “righteousness” as a nearer description of it.
We prefer the point of view according to which righteousness must be regarded as the key word, and sun to be its nearer definition. On the Day of the Lord righteousness will become apparent just like the shining sun in all its brightness and blessedness. The same idea is found in Ps. 37:6: “He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun” (NIV). In Isa. 58:8 we read: “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard” (NIV).
Interpreters again differ concerning whether righteousness is to be explained in the sense of a person or of matter. According to most ancient interpreters the “righteousness” here represents the Messiah, either as Christ incarnate or in his function as Judge of the world, or as both. The second interpretation, which was introduced by Theodore of Mopsuestia, has become the generally accepted one. That which those who fear the Lord will acquire on his day is righteousness as a blazing sun. In this OT key word everything worthwhile will become the possession of those who revere God’s name.
The literature concerning “righteousness” as a key concept in the OT is extensive. In this specific form ṣeḏāqâ occurs 155 times in the OT. In the history of its interpretation we have two main definitions. The fundamental idea of the word suggests, on the one hand, the conformation with a specific norm, and on the other hand, the conformation with a certain relationship. According to the first interpretation “righteousness” means to act rightly in terms of the norm that is set by a specific community, while the second definition emphasizes the importance of the relationship within the community; in this case “righteousness” is the performing of the obligations of that relationship.
In trying to establish the semantic domain of this concept we must not confine it to one or another aspect ṣeḏāqâ is primarily a forensic term, but this does not exclude its religious and ethical meaning. These distinctions are more Western than biblical. We agree with the statement that “the covenant idea is the ‘emotive force’ (H. Sperber) or the ‘predominant thought-trend’ (J. Schwietering) which provided the dynamic for the semantic expansion and development of the word.” In our text “righteousness” is an aspect of the coming day, and as such a gift of God to the pious ones. Thus it is primarily something positive, in the sense of restoring justice and bringing about salvation. We agree with Vriezen that “righteousness” in this positive sense “aims at restoring the law that has been infringed first of all by saving the one who had suffered by the violation of the law and on the other side by punishing the one who had made somebody else suffer.”27 Both aspects of the ambivalent meaning of “righteousness” are implied in our text, but the emphasis is now on the positive aspect of deliverance and salvation in the most comprehensive sense of these words. This “righteousness” on the Day of the Lord will not merely be “external” (Hitzig), or “objective,” denoting the “right” of God (De Moor), but will be fully experienced in all its significance and consequences, including the full scope of God’s salvation on behalf of his pious remnant.
To appreciate the real meaning of this promise, we must consider three components of the context. The first is the simile of the sun. The thrust of the comparison is not that it will become fully day for the righteous, but rather that the light of the sun is representing the fullness of God’s salvation for them. In this metaphor we have two emphases: on the comprehensiveness and on the nature of God’s righteousness for those who fear him. It will shine forth not like a little candle in the night, but as the sun in its blazing fullness; furthermore, it will not bring darkness but shining light, in the sense of salvation and deliverance.
The last-named aspect of the promise is confirmed in the second component of the context, there will be healing. The Hebrew word marpēʾ can be translated as “peace” or “healing” (Jer. 14:19; 33:6; Prov. 4:22; 12:18; 13:17; 16:24; 29:1; 2 Chr. 21:18; 36:16). The latter is the meaning in our text. The rendering of the LXX is íasis, “healing,” and of the Vulgate sanitas. The semantic domain of this word is comprehensive. It is not only the opposite of “disease” (2 Chr. 21:18, 19) but also of “disaster” (Prov. 6:15) and “trouble” (Prov. 13:17). A synonym for “healing” is the Hebrew word ʾarûḵâ, meaning that new flesh has been growing on a wounded spot, that the wound has been healed (Isa. 55:8; Jer. 8:22; 30:17; 33:6). “Healing” is also parallel to “abundant peace” (Jer. 33:6, NIV) and “life” (Prov. 4:22). In Jer. 17:14 the prophet’s prayer is: “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved.” The same relationship between repentance and healing is found in Hos. 6:1: “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken and he will bind us up.” In Ps. 6:3 (Eng. 2) David besought the Lord: “Be gracious to me,” and “heal me.” That which Israel’s leaders neglected to do (Jer. 6:14; Zech. 11:16) will be done by the Servant of the Lord: in preaching the good news to the poor he will bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners (Isa. 61:1). Through his vicarious suffering the Servant of the Lord will reconcile his people: “by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). “In this pregnant saying OT religion transcends itself and reaches its climax.”
In the eschatological context of Mal. 3:20 (Eng. 4:2) it will not be overloading the meaning of the word “healing” to suggest that all or most of the above-named elements must be incorporated in its interpretation. The righteousness of God for his pious ones will cause their “healing” in the most comprehensive sense of the word. The thousand wounds that were inflicted upon them by the evildoers will be covered by new flesh; the “disaster” and “trouble” that were caused by their sins will be removed, and they will be reconciled; their whole existence will be radically changed and will be characterized by “abundant peace” and real “life.” This “healing” ultimately will be the consequence of the vicarious suffering of the Servant of the Lord.
in its wings. Most interpreters combine the figurative use of the wings of a bird with the rays of the sun, while attaching to it alternative meanings, for instance, as symbol of protection with reference to a hen and her chickens (Luther), or of rapid movement (Reinke), while the majority of interpreters follow Wellhausen in his reference to the comparable motif of the sun depicted as a winged disk in Near Eastern religion and culture. The similarity between the “wings” of the sun- righteousness and the winged disk of Israel’s Umwelt is indeed remarkable. In the astral religions of the ancient Near East the sun did play a major role. The sun-god Shamash was the god of righteousness and the protector of the poor. The possibility of such an association in the metaphor of our text with similar notions in the religion and culture of that time cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, there is an aspect that we must not forget. The sun disk of the Assyrians and Persians was a symbol of dominion and therefore a sign of violence and destruction. Under the wings of Malachi’s sun no violence or destruction will be found, but healing, redemption, everlasting life, and peace.
An interesting explanation is offered by C. van Gelderen in his commentary on Hos. 4:19. According to him the figurative meaning of “wings” is not derived from birds but from a common practice among the Jews. A person’s “wing” was also the fold in his garment, in which money or other precious things were stored (cf. Num. 15:38; 1 Sam. 15:27; 24:5, 6, 12; Jer. 2:34; Ezek. 5:3; Hos. 4:19; Hag. 2:12; Zech. 8:23; cf, also JPSV note). According to this interpretation the shining sun of righteousness has a precious article in the fold of his garment, namely, healing in the all-inclusive sense of the word.
An additional component of the context is that the pious ones will rejoice exceedingly. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Interpreters have tried to establish both the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem of this going out of the addressees. The alternative points of departure which were suggested are “this world” (de hoc saeculo, Jerome), “the burial places” (Cappellus), the durae angustiae, “the experienced catastrophes” (Calvin, Halevy, with reference to Ps. 107:28), “the hideouts of the people” (Driver), “out of their bondage” (Hitzig). The answers to the second question, “Whereto?”, usually correspond to those of the separate alternatives in connection with the first question, “Wherefrom?” Ibn Ezra’s view is “to the light of the sun.” Von Bulmerincq suggests “to meet her,” that is, the righteousness.
The problem with all these and similar interpretations is that the point of reference in connection with the “movement” is not so much that of the pious ones but that of the calves. Those who feared the Lord will be similar to fattened and therefore lively calves that are released from the stall and are leaping and tramping about in overriding joy. The point of comparison is not the going out of the calves but their expression of joy. The meaning of the Hebrew verb pôš is “playfully paw the ground” (cf. Jer. 50:11; Hab. 1:8). The expression “calves from the stall” in this form is also found in Jer. 46:21, where it is rendered “fattened calves” (NIV). The righteousness as a shining sun on the Day of the Lord will also cause the pious ones to rejoice exuberantly.
2 This verse continues the contrast between the fate of the wicked (3:19) and the fate of the righteous, “who fear my name” (yirʾê šəmî; cf. 3:16—“Yahweh-fearers,” yirʾê yhwh). Malachi 3:20 addresses the Yahweh-fearers in particular, using lākem, for you. The future actions on behalf of the righteous in 3:20 correspond with the Deity’s response in the rest of the book of Malachi (cf. Ps 112:1). Accordingly, the prophet notes that the priests despised (bāzâ) Yahweh’s name (1:6) but that the name is great (gādôl) and is feared (yārēʾ) among the nations (Mal 1:11, 14). The actions are also consistent with Mal 2:2–3, where a curse will come on those who do not give glory to Yahweh’s name. The exemplar Levi feared (yārēʾ) Yahweh’s name (Mal 2:5). Those who fear Yahweh’s name are characterized by both their actions and what happens to them. It is their fearing or reverencing of Yahweh that distinguishes them from the wicked and results in Yahweh’s benevolence toward them.
Another element of the contrast is what will happen in the day of Yahweh—so a sun of righteousness will rise for you. The sun of righteousness (šemeš ṣədāqâ) is identified by its actions. First, the sun will rise (zāraḥ). Zāraḥ is typical Hebrew usage for the sun’s appearance (e.g., Gen 32:31; Judg 9:33; 2 Sam 23:4; 2 Kgs 3:22; Jonah 4:8; Nah 3:17; Ps 104:22; Eccl 1:5). The verb zāraḥ is also used in Mal 1:11 with the formulation “from the rising of the sun until its setting” to denote continuous activity (cf. Pss 50:1; 113:3; Isa 41:25). The formulation “sun of righteousness,” however, is unique to Mal 3:20. Nevertheless, some propose that the imagery of the leader as a solar luminary is not unique. The mode of the rising is depicted with reference to its wings—healing in its wings (marpēʾ biknāpêhā). The “healing” (marpēʾ) refers to the wings’ restorative effect. The healing addresses diseases, disasters, brokenness, and anything that distracts from wholeness. Thus, despair is manifested by lack of healing (cf. Jer 14:19; Prov 6:14–15; 2 Chr 21:18; 36:16). Healing, however, is manifested by prosperity and security (Isa 19:22; 57:18; Jer 30:17; 33:6). The imagery of the sun seems to belong to the Near Eastern “description of the winged sun disk,”570 which brings to mind the royal figure of the king as the protector of right order and justice (cf. Ps 72). Even so, various Old Testament images of Yahweh as the sun might more readily facilitate our understanding of “sun of righteousness” here in Mal 3:20. For example, in Ps 84:11 (MT 12), Yahweh is šemeš ûmāgēn, “sun and shield”:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Ps 84:11 NRSV)
In Isa 60:19–20 Yahweh will be the people’s light so that they have no need for the sun; Yahweh will be their sun.
The wing (kānāp) as a place of refuge referring to Yahweh’s protection also portrays a clear picture of Yahweh’s future acts on behalf of Yahweh-fearers (cf. Pss 17:8; 36:7 [MT 8]; 57:1 [MT 2]; 61:4 [MT 5]; 63:7 [MT 8]; 91:4; Ruth 2:12). Accordingly, one might consider Yahweh to be the sun and the protective imagery as being manifested in healing and restoration.574 God both heals and devastates, depending on the circumstances and the people involved (Deut 32:39; Isa 19:22; Job 5:18). Here in Mal 4:2 (MT 3:20), healing is not for all but for those who fear Yahweh.
The rising of a “sun of righteousness” on behalf of the God-fearers will result in their vitality: and you will go forth and prance about like fatted calves. The benefactors of the sun of righteousness will be alive and hopeful. They will not suffer under the weight of adversity but will be vital. They will “go out” (yāṣāʾ) and “prance about” (pûš). Also used of calves in Jer 50:11, the Hebrew word pûš denotes carefree existence and playfulness, rather than subduing another being (cf. Hab 1:8). In Mal 3:20 the Yahweh-fearers will be like young, lively calves (ʿēgel). Elsewhere, the noun ʿēgel (singular or plural), “calf/calves,” is modified by marbēq (fatted or stall) to characterize them as “fatted” (1 Sam 28:24; Jer 46:21). In Amos 6:4, the plural form ʿăgālîm, “calves,” occurs in parallelism with lambs from the flock, suggesting that marbēq has the meaning of “stall.” In Mal 4:2 (MT 3:20), the language of fatted calves connotes the vitality of the calves and their freedom.
(c) The Wicked (4:3 [MT 3:21])
It will be a day of joy and triumph for the righteous (vv. 2–3)
That same day will bring unspeakable joy to the people of God. On that day, ‘the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings’ (v. 2). The Lord Jesus, who often seems in eclipse, will shine forth in all his brilliance. And his ‘wings’ (‘rays’) will touch all his people, bringing warmth and healing them of all their diseases.
On that day, the people of God will be like calves, who having been released into the sunshine from their dingy stalls, kick up their heels in sheer exuberance.
And on that day, the righteous will be vindicated. Those who are so often trampled by the wicked here will triumph over them then.
4:2–3 / The salvation promise in 4:2–3 is for the Godfearers of 3:16 and for every subsequent believer. God addresses them together as you who revere my name, that is, “you who fear the Lord.” They will have no cause to be afraid in “the day” (4:1) when the Lord acts (cf. Isa. 33:5–6). That day will be for judgment (4:1, 3; cf. Joel 1:12–14; 3:1–16; Amos 5:18–20; Zeph. 1:14–2:3; Zech. 14) and also for healing (Deut. 32:39).
The rising of the sun of righteousness … with healing in its wings makes use of a common symbol of deity in the ancient Near East, the sun disc with wings. Explicit sun imagery for Yahweh is very rare in the ot (Ps. 84:11 is one exception). In fact, in some of the prophecies in Isaiah God’s glory outshines or replaces the sun and moon (24:23; 60:17–22). Isaiah 35:1–7 promises that the glory of the Lord will be seen and the Lord will come to save and heal (Matt. 11:3–5 describes Jesus’ ministry in similar terms). The sun image in Malachi 3:2 is specifically a picture of God’s righteousness (tsedaqah). “Justice” (mishpat) and “salvation” (from the root yshʿ) are the words most often paired with righteousness in the ot. God establishes justice by putting things right and thereby saves the needy and oppressed (e.g., Mic. 7:8–10). This is God’s requirement for human kings (2 Sam. 23:3–4; Jer. 22:2–3, 15–16; Ezek. 45:9) and the way the promised Messiah will reign (Jer. 23:5–6). In Luke 1:76–79, Zechariah the priest applies Malachi 4:2 to Christ, “the rising sun will come to us from heaven … to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Malachi calls the result of righteousness rising “healing” (marpeʾ), a rare word used in Jeremiah to characterize the restoration of life and wholeness to the land and people after its devastation at the hands of the Babylonians. It is associated with peace, security, and the absence of terror (Jer. 33:6; 8:15). The simile of calves released from the stall fits this scene of fecundity, freedom from enemies, and other reasons for thanksgiving. The calf let out of the stall where it was fattening for slaughter is also a symbol of escape from death (3:17).
The context of Malachi 4:1–3 makes clear that the God-fearers will not themselves destroy the wicked by trampling them underfoot. The simile of 4:2 does not extend into verse 3 as a cattle stampede. Those who in the end suffer divine judgment will be reduced to ashes (4:1). The action of the God-fearers in 4:3 is not a vengeful gesture but rather evidence of freedom from danger. Like calves who go out and leap they will be free to enjoy fullness of life in the safe pasture that the Lord will provide.
2. The effect of the judgment on the righteous, as contrasted with its effect on the wicked (Mal 4:1). To the wicked it shall be as an oven that consumes the stubble (Mt 6:30); to the righteous it shall be the advent of the gladdening Sun, not of condemnation, but “of righteousness”; not destroying, but “healing” (Je 23:6).
you that fear my name—The same as those in Mal 3:16, who confessed God amidst abounding blasphemy (Is 66:5; Mt 10:32). The spiritual blessings brought by Him are summed up in the two, “righteousness” (1 Co 1:30) and spiritual “healing” (Ps 103:3; Is 57:19). Those who walk in the dark now may take comfort in the certainty that they shall walk hereafter in eternal light (Is 50:10).
in his wings—implying the winged swiftness with which He shall appear (compare “suddenly,” Mal 3:1) for the relief of His people. The beams of the Sun are His “wings.” Compare “wings of the morning,” Ps 139:9. The “Sun” gladdening the righteous is suggested by the previous “day” of terror consuming the wicked. Compare as to Christ, 2 Sa 23:4; Ps 84:11; Lu 1:78; Jn 1:9; 8:12; Eph 5:14; and in His second coming, 2 Pe 1:19. The Church is the moon reflecting His light (Rev 12:1). The righteous shall by His righteousness “shine as the Sun in the kingdom of the Father” (Mt 13:43).
ye shall go forth—from the straits in which you were, as it were, held captive. An earnest of this was given in the escape of the Christians to Pella before the destruction of Jerusalem.
grow up—rather, “leap” as frisking calves [Calvin]; literally, “spread,” “take a wide range.”
as calves of the stall—which when set free from the stall disport with joy (Ac 8:8; 13:52; 20:24; Ro 14:17; Ga 5:22; Php 1:4; 1 Pe 1:8). Especially the godly shall rejoice at their final deliverance at Christ’s second coming (Is 61:10).
Ver. 2.—The Sun of Righteousness. The sun which is righteousness, in whose wings, that is, rays, are healing and salvation. This Divine righteousness shall beam upon them that fear the Name of God, flooding them with joy and light, healing all wounds, removing all miseries, making them incalculably blessed. The Fathers generally apply the title of “Sun of Righteousness” to Christ, who is the Source of all justification and enlightenment and happiness, and who is called (Jer. 23:6), “The Lord our Righteousness.” Grow up; rather, gambol; σκιρτήσετε (Septuagint); salietis (Vulgate). “Ye shall leap!” comp. Jer. 50:11). The word is used of a horse galloping (Hab. 1:8). The happiness of the righteous is illustrated by a homely image drawn from pastoral pursuits. They had been, as it were, hidden in the time of affliction and temptation; they shall go forth boldly now, free and exulting, like calves driven from the stall to pasture (comp. Ps. 114:4, 6; Cant. 2:8, 17).
4:2–3. When God judges the world, He will also remember those who feared Him. Contrasting the blazing heat that will burn the wicked, God promises the faithful that the sun of righteousness will arise, bringing its warm rays of healing in its wings (4:2). This is often considered a messianic verse. Yet in light of the feminine forms (she will arise with healing in her wings) and the association with kingdom conditions (Is 35:6; 60:1–3; Hs 14:4–7; Am 9:13–15; Zph 3:19–20), it is better to see it using the healing warmth of the sun as a picture of God’s comfort of the righteous in the morning portion of the day of the Lord. Not only will God heal the faithful, He will grant them vindication, so that they tread down the wicked in the day of the Lord.
4:2. The day of the Lord, which will be like a fire to the wicked, will in contrast be like sunshine to God’s people. The phrase the sun of righteousness appears only here in Scripture. Though many commentators have taken these words to refer to Christ, the phrase seems to refer to the day of the Lord in general. In the kingdom, righteousness will pervade like the sun. Healing (marpē’, “health or restoration”) in its wings (or rays) refers to the restorative powers of righteousness, which are like the healthful rays of the sun. God’s people will be spiritually restored and renewed.
The righteous are described as you who revere My name (cf. comments on “My name” in 1:6). “Revere” translates the same Hebrew word rendered “fear” in 3:5 and “feared” in 1:14; 3:16. Revering God contrasts with saying “harsh things” against God (3:13). The fact that the righteous rather than the wicked are personally addressed indicates the Lord’s contempt for the wicked as much as His love for His own. The figure of calves enjoying open pasture after being cooped up in a pen (stall) expresses the future satisfaction and joy of the righteous (cf. Isa. 65:17–25; Hosea 14:4–7; Amos 9:13–15; Zeph. 3:19–20).
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 741). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.