But unto you that fear my name,.... The few that were of this character among that wicked nation; See Gill on Malachi 3:16,
shall the Sun of righteousness arise; not the Holy Ghost, who enlightens sinners, convinces of righteousness, and gives joy, peace, and comfort to the saints, but Christ: and thus it is interpreted of him by the ancient Jews, in one of their Midrashes or expositionsF1Shemot Rabba, sect. 31. fol. 134. 2. ; they say, Moses says not they shall be for ever pledged, that is, the clothes of a neighbour, but until the sun comes, until the Messiah comes, as it is said, "unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise", &c.; and Philo the JewF2De Somniis, p. 578. not only observes, that God, figuratively speaking, is the sun; but the divine "Logos" or Word of God, the image of the heavenly Being, is called the sun; who, coming to our earthly system, helps the kindred and followers of virtue, and affords ample refuge and salvation to them; referring, as it seems; to this passage: indeed, they generally interpret it of the sun, literally taken, which they suppose, at the end of the world, will have different effects on good and bad men; they sayF3T. Bab. Nedarim, fol. 8. 2. & Avoda Zara, fol. 3. 2. ,
"in the world to come, God will bring the sun out of its sheath, and burn the wicked; they will be judged by it, and the righteous will be healed by it:'
for the proof of the former, they produce the words in the first verse of this chapter, "behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven"; and of the latter these words, "but unto you that fear my name &c."; and a very ridiculous notion they have, that Abraham their father had a precious stone or pearl hanging about his neck, and every sick person that saw it was healed by it immediately; and, when he departed out of the world, God took it, and fixed it to the orb of the sun; hence the proverb, the sun rises, and sickness decreasesF4T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 16. 2. ; and as it is elsewhere quotedF5Apud Yalkut in loc. , this passage is added to confirm it, as it is said, "to you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings": unless this fable should be intended to mean, as AbarbinelF6Comment. in Mal. i. 11. interprets it, that Abraham, while he lived, clearly proved the unity of God and his perfections; and that, after his death, the same truth was taught by the wonderful motion of the sun: but, be this as it will, those are undoubtedly in the right who understand these words figuratively of the Messiah; who is compared to the "sun", because, as the sun is a luminous body, the light of the whole world, so is Christ of the world of men, and of the world of saints; particularly of the Gentiles, often called the world; and of the New Jerusalem church state, and of the world to come: and as the sun is the fountain of light, so is Christ the fountain of natural and moral light, as well as of the light of grace, and of the light of glory: as the sun communicates light to all the celestial bodies, so Christ to the moon, the church; to the stars, the ministers of the word; to the morning stars, the angels: as the sun dispels the darkness of the night, and makes the day, so Christ dispelled the darkness of the ceremonial law, and made the Gospel day; and he dispels the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, and makes the day of grace; and will dispel the darkness of imperfection, and will make the day of glory; as the sun is a pure, clear, and lucid body, so is Christ, without the least spot of sin; and so are his people, as they are clothed with his righteousness: as the sun is a glorious body, so is Christ both his natures, divine and human; in his office as Mediator; and will be in his second coming: as the sun is superior to all the celestial bodies, so is Christ to angels and saints: as the sun is but one, so there is but one Son of God; one Mediator between God and man; one Saviour and Redeemer; one Lord and Head of the church: its properties and effects are many; it lays things open and manifest, which before were hid; communicates heat as well as light; make the earth fruitful; is very exhilarating; has its risings and settings, and of great duration: so Christ declares the mind and will of his Father, the hidden mysteries of grace; lays open the thoughts of men's hearts in conversion; and will at the last day bring to light the hidden things of darkness: he warms the hearts of his people with his love, and causes them to burn within them, while they hear his Gospel, and he makes them fervent in spirit while they serve the Lord; he fills them with the fruits of righteousness, and with joy unspeakable, and full of glory; but he is not always seen, is sometimes under a cloud, and withdraws himself; yet his name is as the sun before the Lord, and wilt abide for ever. He is called "the sun of righteousness", because of the glory of his essential righteousness as God; and because of the purity and perfection of his righteousness as man, which appeared in all his actions, and in the administration of all his offices; and because of the display of the righteousness of God in him, in his sufferings and death, in atonement, pardon, and justification by him; and because he is the author and bringer in of righteousness to his people, the glory of which outshines all others, is pure and spotless like the sun, and is everlasting; those who have it are said to be clothed with the sun, and on such he shines in his beams of divine love, grace, and mercy, which righteousness sometimes signifies; and his rays of grace transform men into righteousness and true holiness. The "arising" of this sun may denote the appearance of Christ in our nature; under the former dispensation this sun was not risen, it was then night with the world; John the Baptist was the morning star, the forerunner of it: Christ the sun is now risen; the dayspring from on high hath visited mankind, and has spread its light and heat, its benign influences, by the ministration of the Gospel, the grace of God, which has appeared and shone out, both in Judea, and in the Gentile world: it may be accommodated to his spiritual appearance: this sun is sometimes under a cloud, or seems to be set, which occasions trouble, and is for wise ends, but will and does arise again to them that fear the Lord. The manner is,
with healing in his wings; by which are meant its rays and beams, which are to the sun as wings to a bird, by which it swiftly spreads its light and heat; so we read of the wings of the morning, Psalms 139:9. Christ came as a physician, to heal the diseases of men; he healed the bodily diseases of the Jews, and he heals the soul diseases of his people, their sins; which healing he has procured by his blood and stripes: pardon of sin by the blood of Christ is meant by healing, which is universal, infallible, and free, Psalms 103:3 it may denote all that preservation, protection, prosperity, and happiness, inward and outward, which they that feared the Lord enjoyed through Christ, when the unbelieving Jews were destroyed; and which is further expressed by what follows:
and ye shall go forth; not out of the world, or out of their graves, as some think; but either out of Jerusalem, as the Christians did a little before its destruction, being warned so to doF7Euseb. Hist. l. 3. c. 5. , whereby they were preserved from that calamity; or it intends a going forth with liberty in the exercise of grace and duty, in the exercise of faith on Christ, love to him, hope in him, repentance, humility, self-denial, &c.; and in a cheerful obedience to his will; or else walking on in his ways; having health and strength, with great pleasure and comfort; and, as Aben Ezra says, by the light of this sun.
And grow up as calves of the stall; such as are fat, being put up there for that purpose; see Amos 6:4. BochartF8Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 31. col. 303. has proved, from many passages out of the TalmudF9T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 53. 1. Bava Metzia, fol. 30. 1. Pesachim, fol. 26. 1. Eruvin, fol. 17. 2. , that the word which the Targum here makes use of, and answers to that in the Hebrew text, which is rendered "stall", signifies a yoke or collar, with which oxen or heifers were bound together, while they were threshing or treading out of corn; so that the calves or heifers here referred to were such as were not put up in a stall, but were yoked together, and employed in treading out the corn; now as there was a law that such should not be muzzled while they were thus employed, but might eat of the corn on the floor freely and plentifully, Deuteronomy 25:4 these usually grew fat, and so were the choicest and most desirable, to which the allusion may be here, and in Jeremiah 46:21 Amos 6:4 and are a fit emblem of saints joined together in holy fellowship, walking together in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord; where they get spiritual food for their souls, and are in thriving circumstances; where they meet with the corn of heaven, with that corn which makes the young men cheerful, and that bread which nourishes up to everlasting life. The apostle alludes to the custom of oxen yoked together, either in ploughing, or in treading out the corn, when he says, speaking of church fellowship and communion in the ordinances of the Gospel, "be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers", 2 Corinthians 6:14 for this hinders spiritual edification, as well as the promotion of the glory of God; but where they are equally yoked, and go hand in hand together in the work and ways of the Lord, they grow and flourish; they are comfortable in their souls, and lively in the exercise of grace; and they are the most thriving Christians, generally speaking, who are in church communion, and most constantly attend the means of grace, and keep closest to the word and ordinances: for the metaphor here used is designed to express a spiritual increase in all grace, and in the knowledge of Christ, and a growing up into him in all things, through the use of means, the word and ordinances; whereby saints become fat and flourishing, being fed with the milk of the word, and the breasts of ordinances, and having fellowship with one another; and, above all, this spiritual growth is owing to the dews of the grace of God, the shining of the Sun of righteousness, and the comfortable gales of the south wind of the Spirit of God, which cause the spices to flow out. The Septuagint version, and those that follow it, render it, "ye shall leap" or "skip as calves loosed from bonds"; as such creatures well fed do when at liberty; and may denote the spiritual joy of the saints upon their being healed, or because of their secure, safe, and prosperous estate: and so the word is explained in the TalmudF11T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 4. 1. Nedarim, fol. 8. 2. , they shall delight themselves in it; and where the Rabbins interpret this and the preceding verse Malachi 4:1 of the natural sun in the firmament, which will be the hellF12A notion they elsewhere frequently inculcate, and is not improbable; and which has been of late advanced and defended by a very learned man of our own country, Mr. Tobias Swinden, in a Treatise called "An Inquirer into the Nature and Place of Hell." in the world to come, and which will burn the wicked, and heal the righteous.