MALACHI, BOOK OF
The final book of the Hebrew Scriptures in modern English Bibles. In the traditional Jewish canon, it is placed last among the writings of the so-called minor prophets but before the Writings (Hagiographa). It constitutes a pronouncement of Jehovah regarding Israel by means of Malachi.—Mal 1:1.
Circumstances in Malachi’s Time. At the time Malachi prophesied, a deplorable situation existed among the priests. Contrary to the Law, they were accepting lame, blind, and sick animals for sacrifice on Jehovah’s altar. (Mal 1:8; Le 22:19; De 15:21) They failed to give proper direction and instruction to the people, causing many to stumble. (Mal 2:7, 8) When judging matters, they showed partiality. (2:9) All of this had a bad effect on the Israelites in general, causing them to view Jehovah’s service as being of little value. (3:14, 15) This is apparent from the fact that the Israelites did not support the temple by paying their tithes. So far had they fallen from their devotion to Jehovah that apparently they were divorcing their wives to marry women worshiping false gods. Also, sorcery, adultery, lying, fraud, and oppression came to exist among the Israelites. (2:11, 14-16; 3:5, 8-10) For this reason Jehovah gave advance warning of his coming to his temple for judgment. (3:1-6) At the same time he encouraged wrongdoers to repent, saying: “Return to me, and I will return to you.”—3:7.
Time of Composition. Internal evidence provides a basis for dating the completion of the book of Malachi. It was written after the Babylonian exile, for the Israelites were under the administration of a governor. Worship was carried on at the temple, indicating that it had been rebuilt. (Mal 1:7, 8; 2:3, 13; 3:8-10) This points to a period later than that of Haggai (520 B.C.E.) and Zechariah (520-518 B.C.E.), as these prophets were active in urging the Israelites to complete the temple. (Ezr 5:1, 2; 6:14, 15) Israel’s neglect of true worship and its failure to adhere to God’s law appear to fit conditions existing when Nehemiah again arrived at Jerusalem sometime after the 32nd year of King Artaxerxes (c. 443 B.C.E.). (Compare Mal 1:6-8; 2:7, 8, 11, 14-16; Ne 13:6-31.) Therefore, like the book of Nehemiah, the book of Malachi may well have been committed to writing after 443 B.C.E.
Harmony With Other Bible Books. This book is in full agreement with the rest of the Scriptures. The apostle Paul quoted from Malachi 1:2, 3 when illustrating that God’s choosing depends, “not upon the one wishing nor upon the one running, but upon God, who has mercy.” (Ro 9:10-16) Jehovah is identified as the Creator (Mal 2:10; compare Ps 100:3; Isa 43:1; Ac 17:24-26) and as a just, merciful, and unchangeable God who does not leave deliberate wrongdoing unpunished. (Mal 2:2, 3, 17; 3:5-7, 17, 18; 4:1; compare Ex 34:6, 7; Le 26:14-17; Ne 9:17; Jas 1:17.) The importance of God’s name is stressed. (Mal 1:5, 11, 14; 4:2; compare De 28:58, 59; Ps 35:27; Mic 5:4.) And encouragement is given to remember the Law of Moses.—Mal 4:4.
The book also directed Israel’s attention to the coming of the Messiah and to the day of Jehovah. While it is pointed out that Jehovah would send forth the one called “my messenger,” this one would be only the forerunner of the still greater “messenger of the covenant” who would accompany Jehovah. (Mal 3:1) The inspired accounts of Matthew (11:10-14; 17:10-13), Mark (9:11-13), and Luke (1:16, 17, 76) combine to identify Jesus’ forerunner John the Baptizer as the “messenger” and the “Elijah” initially meant at Malachi 3:1 and 4:5, 6.
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HIGHLIGHTS OF MALACHI
A pronouncement emphasizing accountability to Jehovah God when his requirements are disregarded
Written by the prophet Malachi, evidently some 95 years after the first Jewish exiles returned from Babylon
Jehovah loved Israel, but they despise his name (1:1-14)
Jehovah loved his people just as he loved Jacob, though he hated Esau
Nevertheless, Israel’s priests despise God’s name, accepting lame and sick animals for sacrifice; they would not give animals like that to a human governor
Priests and people are censured for failure to keep Jehovah’s ways (2:1-17)
The priests have departed from God’s way, causing many “to stumble in the law,” and thus have “ruined the covenant of Levi”
There has been a marrying of foreign wives, and some have dealt treacherously with the wives of their youth by divorcing them
Israelites have wearied God by claiming that he approves of those doing bad
The true Lord will judge and refine his people (3:1-18)
Jehovah will come to the temple with the messenger of the covenant; he will refine and cleanse the Levites, and Judah’s gift offering will please Jehovah
Sorcerers, adulterers, those swearing falsely, defrauders, and oppressors will experience a speedy judgment
Bring the whole tenth part into Jehovah’s storehouse and thus receive a flood of blessings
A book of remembrance will be written for those fearing Jehovah; His people will discern the distinction between the righteous and the wicked
The coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah (4:1-6)
Jehovah’s day will bring the complete destruction of the wicked, while ‘the sun of righteousness will shine forth’ to those fearing God’s name
That day will be preceded by a restoration work, to be accomplished by the prophet Elijah