Published Article: “Worse Than a Curse: The Meaning and Syntax of ḥērem in Malachi 3:24 [4:6]”

My latest article, dealing with the last verse of Malachi, was published by Journal for Semitics on August 8, 2023. Those with access can read the article online here:


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.”

Story Behind this Article

This article had been on my to-do list ever since defending my doctoral dissertation in 2019. After a good deal of moving around (from Toronto to India to Montreal), I was finally able to complete the necessary research and write the paper during fall 2022. I thank Alex Kirk and Luke Bert for their comments on the original manuscript, as well as Tracy Russell for her input on the ancient Syriac translation of the relevant verse. Thanks also go to the anonymous reviewers who pushed me to improve the article.

Part of my goal in writing this work was to demonstrate why my work on secondary predication is important to biblical translation and exegesis. I hope that as a result of its publication we may both better understand Malachi’s message and incorporate secondary predication into our linguistic framework for reading the biblical languages.