Bible Book Number 39—Malachi
Place Written: Jerusalem
Writing Completed: After 443 B.C.E.
1. What indicates Malachi’s zeal for Jehovah?
WHO was Malachi? There is not a single fact recorded regarding his ancestry or personal history. However, from the tenor of his prophecy, it is quite evident that he was most zealous in his devotion to Jehovah God, upholding His name and pure worship, and that he felt strong indignation toward those who profess to serve God but who serve only themselves. The name of Jehovah is mentioned 48 times in the four chapters of his prophecy.
2. What does Malachi’s name possibly mean, and when, apparently, did he live?
2 His name in Hebrew is Mal·ʼa·khiʹ, which possibly means “My Messenger.” The Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint, and the chronological order of the books all place Malachi last among the 12 so-called minor prophets. According to the tradition of the Great Synagogue, he lived after the prophets Haggai and Zechariah and was a contemporary of Nehemiah.
3. What indicates that the prophecy of Malachi was written after 443 B.C.E.?
3 When was the prophecy written? It was during the administration of a governor, which places it in the time of the restoration of Jerusalem following the 70 years’ desolation of Judah. (Mal. 1:8) But which governor? Since the temple service is mentioned but without reference to building the temple, it must have been after the time of Governor Zerubbabel, during whose tenure of office the temple was completed. There is only one other governor of this period mentioned in the Scriptures, and he is Nehemiah. Does the prophecy fit Nehemiah’s time? Nothing is stated in Malachi concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its wall, which eliminates the early part of Nehemiah’s governorship. However, much is said concerning the abuses by the priesthood, tying Malachi in with the situation that existed when Nehemiah came a second time to Jerusalem, following his recall to Babylon by Artaxerxes in 443 B.C.E., the 32nd year of the king’s reign. (Mal. 2:1; Neh. 13:6) Similar passages in Malachi and Nehemiah indicate that the prophecy applies to this particular time.—Mal. 2:4-8, 11, 12—Neh. 13:11, 15, 23-26; Mal. 3:8-10—Neh. 13:10-12.
4. What proves the book of Malachi to be authentic and inspired?
4 The book of Malachi has always been accepted by the Jews as authentic. Quotations from it in the Christian Greek Scriptures, a number of which show fulfillments of its prophecy, prove that Malachi was inspired and part of the canon of Hebrew Scriptures that was recognized by the Christian congregation.—Mal. 1:2, 3—Rom. 9:13; Mal. 3:1—Matt. 11:10 and Luke 1:76 and Lu 7:27; Mal. 4:5, 6—Matt. 11:14 and Mt 17:10-13, Mark 9:11-13 and Luke 1:17.
5. What low spiritual condition prompted Malachi’s prophecy?
5 Malachi’s prophecy indicates that the religious zeal and enthusiasm aroused by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah at the time of rebuilding the temple had passed away. Priests had become careless, proud, and self-righteous. Temple services had become a mockery. Tithes and offerings had lapsed because of a feeling that God was not interested in Israel. The hopes centered in Zerubbabel had not been realized, and contrary to some expectations, Messiah had not come. The Jews’ spiritual state was at a very low ebb. What ground was there for encouragement and hope? How could the people be made aware of their true state and be awakened to return to righteousness? The prophecy of Malachi supplied the answer.
6. What is Malachi’s style of writing?
6 Malachi’s style of writing is direct and forceful. He first states the proposition and then answers the objections of those whom he addresses. Finally, he reasserts his original proposition. This adds strength and vividness to his argument. Instead of soaring to heights of eloquence, he uses an abrupt, strongly argumentative style.
CONTENTS OF MALACHI
7. What love and hatred does Jehovah express?
7 Jehovah’s commandment to the priests (1:1–2:17). Jehovah first expresses his love for his people. He has loved Jacob and hated Esau. Let Edom try to build its devastated places; Jehovah will tear them down and they will be called “the territory of wickedness,” the people denounced by Jehovah, for Jehovah will “be magnified over the territory of Israel.”—1:4, 5.
8. How have the priests polluted Jehovah’s table, and why will a curse come on them?
8 Now Jehovah addresses directly the ‘priests who are despising his name.’ As they try to justify themselves, Jehovah points to their blind, lame, and sick sacrifices, and he asks, Will even the governor approve such offerings? Jehovah himself has no delight in them. His name must be exalted among the nations, but these men are profaning him by saying: “The table of Jehovah is something polluted.” A curse will come on them because they have cunningly sidestepped their vows by offering worthless sacrifices. “‘For I am a great King,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘and my name will be fear-inspiring among the nations.’”—1:6, 12, 14.
9. In what have the priests failed, and how have they profaned Jehovah’s holiness?
9 Jehovah now gives a commandment to the priests, saying that if they do not take this counsel to heart, he will send a curse upon them and upon their blessings. He will scatter the dung of their festivals upon their faces because of their failure to keep the covenant of Levi. “For the lips of a priest are the ones that should keep knowledge, and the law is what people should seek from his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of armies.” (2:7) Malachi confesses the great sin of Israel and Judah. They have dealt treacherously with one another and have profaned the holiness of Jehovah, their Father and Creator, by taking the daughter of a foreign god as bride. They have gone to the extreme in wearying Jehovah. They have even asked, “Where is the God of justice?”—2:17.
10. For what work of judgment does the Lord come to his temple?
10 The true Lord and the messenger (3:1-18). The prophecy now reaches a climax in the words of “Jehovah of armies”: “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he must clear up a way before me. And suddenly there will come to His temple the true Lord, whom you people are seeking, and the messenger of the covenant in whom you are delighting. Look! He will certainly come.” (3:1) As a refiner, He will cleanse the sons of Levi and will become a speedy witness against the wicked who have not feared Him. Jehovah does not change, and because they are sons of Jacob, he will mercifully return to them if they return to him.
11. How should they now test God, and what blessings will follow?
11 They have been robbing God, but now let them test him by bringing their tithes into the storehouse that there may be food in his house, confident that he will pour forth from the floodgates of the heavens the very fullness of his blessing. They will become a land of delight pronounced happy by all nations. Those in fear of Jehovah have been speaking to one another, and Jehovah has been paying attention and listening. “And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.” (3:16) They will certainly become Jehovah’s in the day of his producing a special property.
12. What is promised concerning Jehovah’s fear-inspiring day?
12 The great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah (4:1-6). This is the coming day that will devour the wicked, leaving neither root nor bough. But the sun of righteousness will shine forth to those who fear Jehovah’s name, and they will be healed. Jehovah admonishes them to remember the Law of Moses. Before his great and fear-inspiring day, Jehovah promises to send Elijah the prophet. “And he must turn the heart of fathers back toward sons, and the heart of sons back toward fathers; in order that I may not come and actually strike the earth with a devoting of it to destruction.”—4:6.
13. What does Malachi have to say as to (a) Jehovah’s mercy and love? (b) the responsibility of teachers of God’s Word? (c) those who violate God’s laws and principles?
13 The book of Malachi helps in understanding the unchanging principles and merciful love of Jehovah God. At the outset, it emphasizes Jehovah’s great love for his people “Jacob.” He declared to the sons of Jacob: “I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” Despite their great wickedness, he was ready to return to his people if they would return to him. A merciful God indeed! (Mal. 1:2; 3:6, 7; Rom. 11:28; Ex. 34:6, 7) Through Malachi, Jehovah stressed that a priest’s lips “should keep knowledge.” All who are entrusted with the teaching of God’s Word should pay heed to this point, making sure that it is accurate knowledge that they impart. (Mal. 2:7; Phil. 1:9-11; compare James 3:1.) Jehovah does not tolerate hypocrites, those who try to make out that “doing bad is good in the eyes of Jehovah.” No one should think that he can deceive Jehovah by making the mere pretense of an offering to this great King. (Mal. 2:17; 1:14; Col. 3:23, 24) Jehovah will be a speedy witness against all who violate his righteous laws and principles; no one may expect to act wickedly and get away with it. Jehovah will judge them. (Mal. 3:5; Heb. 10:30, 31) The righteous may have full assurance that Jehovah will remember their deeds and reward them. They should pay attention to the Law of Moses, even as Jesus did, for it contains many things that are fulfilled in him.—Mal. 3:16; 4:4; Luke 24:44, 45.
14. (a) To what, particularly, does Malachi point forward? (b) How was Malachi 3:1 fulfilled in the first century C.E.?
14 As the last book of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, Malachi points forward to events surrounding the coming of the Messiah, whose appearance more than four centuries later provided the reason for the writing of the Christian Greek Scriptures. As recorded at Malachi 3:1, Jehovah of armies said: “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he must clear up a way before me.” Speaking under inspiration, the aged Zechariah showed that this had a fulfillment in his son, John the Baptizer. (Luke 1:76) Jesus Christ confirmed this, stating at the same time: “There has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” John had been sent, as Malachi foretold, to ‘prepare the way,’ so that he was not among those with whom Jesus later made a covenant for a Kingdom.—Matt. 11:7-12; Luke 7:27, 28; 22:28-30.
15. Who is the “Elijah” of Malachi’s prophecy?
15 Then, at Malachi 4:5, 6, Jehovah promised: “Look! I am sending to you people Elijah the prophet.” Who is this “Elijah”? Both Jesus and the angel who appeared to Zechariah apply these words to John the Baptizer, showing that he was the one to “restore all things” and “to get ready for Jehovah a prepared people” to receive the Messiah. However, Malachi says also that “Elijah” is the forerunner of “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah,” thus indicating a still future fulfillment in a day of judgment.—Matt. 17:11; Luke 1:17; Matt. 11:14; Mark 9:12.
16. To what blessed day does Malachi point forward, and what warm encouragement does he give?
16 Looking forward to that day, Jehovah of armies says: “From the sun’s rising even to its setting my name will be great among the nations. . . . For I am a great King, . . . and my name will be fear-inspiring among the nations.” Fear-inspiring indeed! For ‘the day will burn like the furnace, and all the presumptuous ones and all those doing wickedness must become as stubble.’ Yet, happy are those who fear Jehovah’s name, for to them “the sun of righteousness will certainly shine forth, with healing in its wings.” This focuses on the happy time when obedient ones of the human family will be completely healed—spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. (Rev. 21:3, 4) In pointing forward to that glorious and blessed day, Malachi encourages us to be wholehearted in bringing our offering into Jehovah’s house: “‘Test me out, please, in this respect,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘whether I shall not open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.’”—Mal. 1:11, 14; 4:1, 2; 3:10.
17. Malachi’s warnings are tempered with what call for optimism?
17 While continuing to warn of ‘a devoting of the earth to destruction,’ this last book of the Prophets calls for optimism and rejoicing in line with Jehovah’s words to his people: “All the nations will have to pronounce you happy, for you yourselves will become a land of delight.”—4:6; 3:12.