Worse Than a Curse: The Meaning and Syntax of ḥērem in Malachi 3:24 [4:6]
Keywords:curse, judgment, Malachi 3:24, predicates, profanation, resultatives, secondary predicates
In the history of the interpretation of Malachi, the word ḥērem which closes the book has been analysed in four different ways by translators and commentators, namely as a second object, an adverbial of means, an adverbial intensive, and a resultative secondary predicate. This article examines the four options and proposes the resultative analysis, hitherto only unambiguously attested in the Peshitta OT, as the best interpretation. This leads to the conclusion that ḥērem is something which the land becomes as a result of God’s action against it. I support the resultative analysis with data from Biblical Hebrew and maintain that this analysis best fits the consensus on the meaning of the word ḥērem, proposing a minimal understanding of the word in Malachi 3:24 [4:6] as “something unusable because it is under divine sanction.” Under this interpretation, the threat made by God in Malachi 3:24 is both more specific and more serious than what is communicated by most translations. In its final verse, Malachi issues an ultimatum against the people which throws into question the ongoing role of the land in the divine plan. For the final portion of the verse, I propose the translation “lest I come and strike the land, leaving it profaned.”
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