By Tyson Thorne

February 26, 2019

Intro Malachi Large

From the very beginning the prophet tells us this is going to be a troublesome book. His use of the word “oracle,” which means “burden,” tells us that much. And while, as is customary for the prophets, there is a hope threaded through the book there are also numerous chastisements for Israel’s sins.  And their sins were many. Malachi denounces their blemished offerings, ignoring the tithe, divorces, marriages to foreign women, and many others. But they were guilty of much more, including selling of their children into slavery, the prostitution of their daughters to pay debts, and ignoring the Sabbath.  

But why, after all her years of captivity, was Israel so ridden with sin? Because she had lost her fear of YHWH. In 1.6 the Lord asks them where is the honor and respect that is His due; in 2.5 the Lord reminds His people that He must be revered; in 3.5 the Lord points to the lack of respect granted him by sinners who “do not fear me;” and in 4.2 he tells his people how those who fear him shall be rewarded. In all, an astounding seven uses of the Hebrew word “fear.” 

As Malachi concludes the message of God we know as the Old Testament and the world enters into a four hundred year silent treatment from God, he tells of the coming of the Messiah and how the nation must prepare for his coming. Words that would have pointed the religious leadership to understand the words God spoke to break the era of silence went unheeded throughout the centuries. And for this reason they could not understand the words spoken by the angel Gabriel to the priest Zechariah regarding the fulfillment of the words of Malachi. They missed their only hope, the closing of the Old Covenant, and the beginning of the New. 

Author and Date of Composition

Nothing more than the name Malachi is known of the author of this message. As a result, some have concluded that “Malachi,” which means “my messenger,” is merely a title for the work rather than the prophets actual name. However, it would be unusual for a canonized text to endure the centuries without the author’s name. Further, historic tradition holds that a prophet named Malachi was a member of the Nehemiah’s Great Synagogue. This would place Malachi during Nehemiah’s time, about 430 B.C. There is much evidence to support this assumption. His ministry would have been especially appropriate shortly after Nehemiah’s death, or the time Nehemiah was absent from Jerusalem (Nehemiah 13.6) as he addressed many of the same issues as Nehemiah, including:

•Misuse of the Temple

•Priestly Corruption

•Intermarriage with Foreigners

•Human ending of the Sacrificial System

Other internal evidences abound, including the state of the Temple (it is finished in both books, while it was still under construction in Haggai and Zechariah's time), his reference to a Persian governor (1.8), and the inner decay of the Jewish spiritual life. It is apparent then, that Malachi ministered approximately 100 years after the end of the exile and at a time when God’s people once more began to turn from Him.

Malachi shares a longer history with the priest Ezra and governor Nehemiah. In the same way that there were three deportations from Israel to Babylon, there were three returns from Babylon to Israel. The first was led by Zerubbabel in 538 BC and is discussed in Ezra chapters 1-6 and included prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The rebuilding of the temple was the priority for this first group. The second return was led by Ezra in 458 BC and is discussed in Ezra 7-10. Cultural reforms and a reintroduction to their covenant responsibilities were the primary focus. The third return, led by Nehemiah in 444 BC, focused on building the wall around Jerusalem and teaching the people to be obedient to God's Law. The book of Malachi was likely written after this third return and during the days of Nehemiah's governorship of Jerusalem.

As one can readily see, there are many books, historical and prophetic, major and minor prophets, that interconnect within the Old Testament. Much of the days of the prophets are told in 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, and can add to our knowledge of the historical context other authors wrote in. For this reason, it is important to notice the rulers of ancient lands and to identify their age.

The Book

  1. God’s Faithful Love, 1.1-.5
  2. God’s Unfaithful Priests, 1.6-2.9
  3. God’s Judgment of the Unfaithful, 2.10-4.3
  4. God’s Final Warning, 4.4-.6
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