Malachi, the last of the minor prophets, and the last book of the Old Testament, summarises the history of the Old Testament. The purpose of Malachi's book was to re-light and maintain the lamp of faith of the Judean people telling them that God was still caring for them, assuring them that God's promises would be fulfilled and reminding them of their responsibilities as heirs to God's promises. (Biggs&Catlin p,137.)
Malachi is a Hebrew word, Mal‚kÓ meaning "my messenger" or "angel". (Strong p.673,66(Hebrew Dictionary))The majority of scholars agree that the author's name is Malachi and it is a title or symbolic name . It is suggested by McGee that little information is known about Malachi due to him being God's messenger and the most important thing was the content of the message.(Myers, p.681-682. SEE ALSO McGee, p.990.)
Harrison suggests the possibility that the book of Malachi was a collection of anonymous prophecies, but he defends the basis for an existence of a new prophet. (Harrison,p.960)
Malachi has been called a "sad" book due to the lack of progress that Judah accomplished since its inception 1000 years earlier . Malachi was the last prophet to speak to Judah in their own land, and it was the last time that God would speak to His people for over 400 years.(Jensen,p.467 SEE ALSO Boa p.1078.)
Scholars suggest that the book of Malachi was written before Ezra and Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, which would date it around 460BC. Elwell puts forward the date of 440BC, and McGee even suggests as late as 397BC. However it is agreed by most scholars that the book of Malachi was written between 433-420 BC while Nehemiah was in Babylon. Therefore, Malachi prophesied during the time of king Artaxerxes I (464-423BC). No matter which date is preferred, it is agreed by all scholars that it was not possible that the book of Malachi was written before 515BC because the Temple was only completed in 516BC. It is concluded, therefore that Malachi came not only after the temple was built but at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. It was most likely that when Malachi wrote to the people of Judah, Nehemiah was temporarily absent or he was no longer the governor.(Guthrie & Motyer p.804. SEE ALSO Elwell, p.704. SEE ALSO McGee, p.990. SEE ALSO Geisler,p.297. SEE ALSO Jensen, p.467. SEE ALSO Payne,p.469. SEE ALSO Gaebelein, p.702.)
God's blessing had been prophesied by Haggai and Zechariah 100 years earlier, however, decades later these prophecies were still unfulfilled. The Jews were discouraged and their faith in God was eroding. The main reason Malachi wrote, was to encourage the Jews. (Jensen,p.468. SEE ALSO Biggs and Catlin, p.136.)
The book of Malachi was set out in a Question and Answer form and the book probes into the problems that the tribe of Judah were facing. (Biggs and Catlin,p.136.)
Malachi spoke in a simple and straightforward manner. The people of Judah were in deep turmoil because of the priests laxity and corruption (1:6-2:9), mixed marriages (2:10-16), the neglect of tithes (3:7-12), and the consequences of not taking notice and changing.
The Jews lived in great moral and social decline and they were treating their relationship with God as a right instead of a privilege. Both the priests and the people had lost the spiritual reverence of their ancestors.
Malachi's message began with a revelation of God's love for Judah (1:1-5). It proved that no matter how Judah had changed, God was still unchanged, and would always stay the same towards His people. God never forgot His promise of love and mercy. ( Hayford,p.271. SEE ALSO Boa, p.1078-1079)
Judah was in a state of self-pity. They had forgotten to continue looking forward into the future for God's promises. They so easily had forgotten how He had cared for them in the past. God gave the parallel of Esau (Edom) and Jacob (Israel) to remind Judah of His special love for them. Edom, from the line of Esau and Israel from Jacob's name, both countries had a great hostility toward the other . The hate between Esau and Jacob had begun in Genesis Chapter 27 when Jacob gained Esau's blessing. This hatred flowed on from one generation to the next.( Anderson,p.522. SEE ALSO Myers, p.682 SEE ALSO Guthrie and Motyer, p.804)
Malachi (1:6-2:9) addressed the sins of the priests and the corruption that had crept into the system. The priests refused to work for anything other than money . They hadn't turned the people away from God but had misled them . Malachi rebuked the priests for leading the people astray, failing to supply the proper moral and spiritual leadership that was required, for despising His name and polluting the alter by using blind and sickly sacrifices rather than the best as God had commanded. The animals that were being sacrificed to God were so worthless that the governor of the land would not accept them , yet the people of Judah were expecting God to accept the offerings and bless them.The sacrifices became nothing more than an empty ritual and lacked any meaning to the people. (Mears, p.327. SEE ALSO Swaggart, p.1250. SEE ALSO Geisler, p.298. SEE ALSO Mears,p.327.)
Malachi even said that it would be far better that the temple be closed rather than the people just continue the same insincere rituals . God deserved only the best gifts and sincere worship . Malachi (1:11) pointed out that even the Gentiles worshipped God's name with fervour, whereas Judah was not sincere about their relationship with God. (It was put forward by some scholars, that the reason Malachi made such a statement about the Gentiles worship was because of Malachi's understanding of the Persian religion). God quite clearly warned the priests that if they didn't correct their ways, they would have curses placed upon them. (Anderson, p.522)
Malachi then spoke out against the people. He spoke not only about their routine, meaningless worship, but the associating of themselves with evil, cheating God, questioning God's justice and being impatient. (Guthrie, and Motyer, p.804. SEE ALSO Mears, p.327-328 SEE ALSO Geisler, p.298-299)
The people of Judah had reached such a low in their spirituality with God. Their idolatry was just as strong despite the experience with Babylon , and the people were totally blinded by what God required of them, therefore the result over time was that their desire for evil grew till the people could no longer control the evilness. ( Geisler, op.cit., p.298 )
Divorce occurred, and men were marrying pagan wives which resulted in an unpure race and an acceptance of the different cultures and gods . The input from these pagans was causing the people to stray even further. When the people became unfaithful and insincere with their relationship with God, it was inevitable that a breakdown would occur with other people. (Guthrie & Motyer, p.704. SEE ALSO Anderson, p.523 SEE ALSO Swaggart, p.1250 SEE ALSO Harrison, p.959 SEE ALSO Elwell, p.708.)
Malachi addressed the issue of tithing (3:7-18). God commanded the people that they must tithe and He would in turn bless them richly . Malachi pointed out that the key to opening God's door of blessings was to firstly recognise that all money/asset(s) were God's and the people were only giving back to Him what was originally His in the first place. The people were expecting their religious feelings to pay them great dividends . By Judah not tithing it proved that their loyalty to God was low on their list of priorities. The people of Judah had not been tithing as God had commanded and were therefore robbing God. (Anderson, p.523 SEE ALSO Elwell, p.710-711 SEE ALSO Mears, p.328)
Malachi (3:13-15) said the people were arrogant, and would not listen to God. God's reply was that he would remember His faithful people on judgment day and reward those who remained loyal and honestly followed Him until the end and would spare them.
The people of Judah complained that God didn't "pay off" , and could see no tangible benefits in following God. It appeared evident to the community that there was prosperity in a self-centred lifestyle. Through Malachi, God tried to reach Judah's hardened hearts by asking several questions of the people, however, the people answered according to their attitudes, "Its not that bad" . God was enraged that the people rationalised their sins and had such an grave attitude towards Him. (Anderson, p.523 SEE ALSO Boa, p.1079. SEE ALSO Harrison, p.959.)
God appealed to his people and the priests to realise that their lack of blessings wasn't because of God not caring, but because of their disobedience. Only when the people decided to respond positively and have a heart only for God that he would then allow the blessings to flow . Unfortunately, the people of Judah were so spiritually dead that they couldn't understand why they weren't being blessed. (Mears, op.cit., p.328 SEE ALSO Boa, p.1079)
Malachi, was a reformer . Throughout the book he corrected the people of Judah. Even though the book of Malachi appeared to be dark and distressing it is possible to still see God's love and grace in the last verse and the promise that He will come for Judah as well as others who believe in Him. (Mears, p.326 SEE ALSO Jensen, p.467)
Malachi defended the love and justice of God. He had a great love for the people of Judah, for the Temple and a high understanding of tradition and the duties of the priests . Even though Judah had left the pathway God had set down, God still had an intense love for His people. Malachi prepared the way for John the Baptist and Jesus to follow and it wouldn't be till 400 years later that the powerful words of prophets would ever be heard. (Mears, p.805)
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