Book of Malachi Explained

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The title is derived from the prophecy’s author, Malachi, With this last work in the Minor Prophets, God closes the Old Testament canon historically and prophetically.

Malachi has been called the Socrates of the prophets because he uses that style specialists in rhetoric call dialectic, “investigation through discussion and reasoning.” The dialectic form used in the prophecy became a popular teaching style in later Judaism. The prophecy is a testimony to the graciousness of God in condescending to answer man’s foolish and childish statements.

Only 50,000 exiles had returned to Judah from Babylon (538-536 b.c.). The temple had been rebuilt under the leadership of Zerubbabel (516 b.c.) and the sacrificial system renewed. Ezra had returned in 458 b.c. After being back in the land of Palestine for only a century, the ritual of the Jews’ religious routine led to hard heartedness toward God’s great love for them and to widespread departure from His law by both people and priest.

We know from 1:7 and 3:10 that not only had the temple been finished in Malachi’s day, but it had been in use for some time, and sin was corrupting the worship that took place in it. Further, the book of Malachi must have been written after Nehemiah’s first arrival in Jerusalem in the thirty second year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, in 444 b.c., probably after the walls had been rebuilt around the city, for Malachi addresses the same sins noted in Nehemiah: the divorcing of Jewish wives and marrying heathen women (cf. 3:8-10 with Nehemiah 13:10-14.

Nehemiah was recalled to the Persian court in 433 b.c., and another governor, who seems to have been a Persian governor, was placed over Palestine (cf. 13:6).

Most likely, Malachi was written just before Nehemiah’s second return to Jerusalem or during his presence there. Malachi ministered in support of Nehemiah’s ministry, just as Haggai and Zechariah had ministered in support of Ezra and Zerubbabel nearly a hundred years earlier. The prophecy was probably written sometime between 433 and 425. b.c.

Malachi was almost an unknown, except for this book that he penned. He used the expression "Ye say" instead of "Thus saith the Lord". His book shows us a picture of the degradation in the land at the closing of the Old Testament. He, also, gives hope for the future in Messiah. He speaks out against the priesthood, as well as against these ungrateful people of God.  He prophesied about the time of Nehemiah.

The purpose of Malachi is to deliver stern rebukes to the people and priests, to call them to repentance, and to promise future blessing. His theme is God’s love for Israel in spite of the sins of the priests and people.

The Lord repeatedly referred to His covenant with Israel reminding them, for His opening words, of the unfaithfulness to His love/marriage relationship with them. God’s love for His people pervades the book.

Apparently the promises by the former prophets of the coming Messiah who would bring final deliverance and age-long blessings, and the encouragement from the recent promises of Haggai and Zechariah, had only made the people and their leaders more resolute in their complacency.

They thought that this love relationship could be maintained by formal ritual alone, no matter how they lived. In a penetrating rebuke of both priests and people, the prophet reminds them that the Lord’s coming, which they were seeking, would be in judgment to refine, purify and purge.

The Lord not only wanted outward compliance with the law, but an inward acceptance as well. The prophet assaults the corruption, wickedness and false security by directing his judgments at their hypocrisy, infidelity, compromise, divorce, false worship and arrogance.

Malachi set forth his prophecy in the form of a dispute, employing the question and answer method. The Lord’s accusations against His people were frequently met by cynical questions from the people. At other times, the prophet presented himself as God’s advocate in a lawsuit, posing rhetorical questions to the people based on their defiant criticisms.

Malachi indicted the false priests and the people on at least 6 counts of willful sin: (1) Repudiating God’s love, 1:2-5; (2) Refusing God His due honor, 1:6 – 2:9; (3) Rejecting God’s faithfulness, 2:10 – 16; (4) Redefining God’s righteousness, 2:17 – 3:6; (5) Robbing God’s riches, 3:7-12; (6) Reviling God’s grace, 3:13-15.

There are three interludes in which Malachi rendered God’s judgment: (1) To the priests, v.2:1-9; (2) To the nation, 3:1-6; (3) To the remnant, 3:16 – 4:6.

As over two millennia of Old Testament history since Abraham concluded, none of the glorious promises of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants had been fulfilled in their ultimate sense. Although there had been a few high points in Israel’s history, e.g., Joshua, David, and Josiah, the Jews had seemingly lost all opportunity to receive God’s favor since less that 100 years after returning from captivity, they had already sunk to a depth of sin that exceeded the former iniquities which brought on the Assyrian and Babylonian deportations. Beyond this, the long anticipated Messiah had not arrived and did not seem to be in sight.

"After Malachi, the prophetic voice was silent for some four hundred years. This fact makes it necessary for even the most destructive critic to admit that the hundreds of prophecies concerning the coming of our Lord are what they claim to be: Prophecy.

So, Malachi wrote the capstone prophecy of the Old Testament in which he delivered God’s message of judgment on Israel for their continuing sin and God’s promise that one day in the future, when the Jews would repent, Messiah would be revealed and God’s covenant promises would be fulfilled.

There were over 400 years of divine silence, with only Malachi’s words ringing condemnation in their ears, before another prophet arrived with a message from God. That was John the Baptist preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). Messiah had come.

Each of the chapters are done individually. Some due to length, have been shorten into "continued" sections. Each section contains a questionnaire which follows the section which has been done to aid in the learning process. Each section can be accessed by the simple menu found at the bottom of the file. (i.e., continue to next section or return to previous section.


Malachi Chapter 1

Malachi Chapter 2

Malachi Chapter 3

Malachi Chapter 4

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