What does it mean to rebuke the devourer in Malachi 3:11?Question: "What does it mean to rebuke the devourer in Malachi 3:11?"
Answer: The phrase rebuke the devourer is found in the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts” (KJV). In this verse Malachi records a wonderful promise of God to the nation of Israel.
The Hebrew word translated “devourer” means “eater” and refers to the locust or caterpillar or any such creature that devours crops. The NIV translates Malachi 3:11 as “I will prevent pests from devouring your crops.” The “devourer” could also refer to plant diseases—really, anything that would destroy Israel’s crops: the NLT says, “Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.” Swarms of locusts were common in the Middle East in those days and could destroy virtually all the produce of an entire country. The devastation brought by locusts could be horrific. When God said He would “rebuke the devourer,” He promised that He would protect Israel from such disasters.
Like all promises under the Mosaic Law, the promise of God to rebuke the devourer was conditional. If the Israelites would cease robbing God and give their whole tithe (Malachi 3:9–10), as required by the Law (Leviticus 27:30), then God would keep the locusts away from them and bless them with such abundance of healthy crops that theirs would be known as a “delightful land” (Malachi 3:12).
Chapter 1 of Malachi is an indictment against Israel for despising and dishonoring God by offering impure sacrifices (Malachi 1:6–14). In Chapter 2, God indicts the priests for corrupting the Law (Malachi 2:8), for dealing unfairly with the people (Malachi 2:9–11), and for divorcing their wives (Malachi 2:14–16). After rebuking them for their sin, God goes on to predict the coming of their Messiah who will purify them so that their offerings are acceptable to Him (Malachi 3:1–4).
It is in this context that God makes the promise to rebuke the devourer on behalf of the people of Israel. If they would repent and return to Him, He would pour out blessings upon them. If they would bring into the storehouse the grain offerings that are rightly His, He would open the heavens and pour out blessings upon them for their obedience. Their crops would produce so abundantly that there would scarcely be room enough to store them (Malachi 3:10).
Some have tried to equate God’s rebuking of the devourer with Christians’ rebuking of the devil. But this is a misinterpretation and takes the verse out of context. The “devourer” is not Satan; it is the locust. The church is not Israel; we are not under the Old Testament Law; we are not promised material blessings; and tithing is not required of us. Of course, we do have a spiritual enemy. Satan prowls around seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), but even if Malachi 3:11 were referring to Satan, which it is not, the verse is clear that it is God who does the rebuking (cf. Zechariah 3:2 and Jude 1:9). The Bible does not give Christians the authority to rebuke the devil or to speak to him at all. We are told to resist him and he will flee from us (James 4:7).
Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller
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Questions about Malachi
What does it mean to rebuke the devourer in Malachi 3:11?