Book of Malachi

Outline

Authorship, date, and background Malachi, the author of this book, was the last of the writing prophets. His name means "my messenger," and for this reason some have supposed that the author was an unknown and unnamed prophet. The book itself was written after the times of Haggai and Zechariah. This is clearly so because the rebuilt temple was standing, sacrifices were brought to the altar, and the people were subject to the authority of a Persian governor. Therefore the book can be dated somewhere between 450 and 425 B.C.

The people in the land were discouraged. Times were hard. They experienced drought and famine, causing them to wonder whether God cared for them. A spirit if apathy, indifference, and spiritual backsliding existed. The refugees had been in the land for almost a hundred years. The walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt as well as the temple. The wicked seemed to prosper while those who walked penitently and kept God's commandments did not. Moreover, the kingdom they were expecting had not yet come and they wondered whether it ever would. It was against this backdrop that Malachi began his prophetic ministry.

Characteristics and content Malachi intensely loves his people. He represents great spiritual dynamism, and his words are backed by the conviction that he speaks with the authority of God. His words are God's words. His book is dialogic. He employs questions and answers to discuss the themes he has in mind. Always the justice of God is under discussion and Malachi appeals to reason and uses logic to make his case.

Malachi intensely loves his people. He represents great spiritual dynamism, and his words are backed by the conviction that he speaks with the authority of God. His words are God's words. His book is dialogic. He employs questions and answers to discuss the themes he has in mind. Always the justice of God is under discussion and Malachi appeals to reason and uses logic to make his case.

Malachi is angry because the people have intermarried with women from heathen nations. These wives have introduced idolatry. Divorce is common. Malachi insists that all the sacrifices avail nothing when the hearts of the offerers are not right with their God. God had become wearied with this people. He must shortly do something about their adulteries, sorceries, lying, failure to bring their tithes to the storehouse, and the injustices they heap on widows, orphans, and strangers. God has his own book of remembrance in which he includes the names of those who walk according to his commandments. Contrary to what the people think, god knows who they are who fear him. They will be saved in the day of God's wrath when the others are destroyed.

The great and terrible day of the Lord is pending. This divine judgment will be delayed for a season so that a time of mercy may follow which will be marked by the coming of the prophet Elijah. This, of course, refer to the advent of the Messiah whose forerunner is Elijah, i.e., John the Baptist (see Mt 11:10, 14). At some undisclosed time in the future, another Elijah will appear just prior to what Malachi describes as "the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (4:5), when history will be consummated.