The last of the minor prophets, and of all the Old Testament writers; so little known, that it is doubted by some, though without sufficient reason, whether his name be a proper name, or only a generical one, signifying the angel of the Lord that is, a messenger, a prophet, Hag 1:13; Mal 3:1. Malachi most probably prophesied about B. C. 416, in the latter part of the administration of Negemiag, and after Haggai and Zechariah, at a time of great disorder among the priests and people of Judah, whom her reproves. He inveighs against the priests; reproves the people for having taken strange wives, for inhumanity to their brethren, for divorcing their wives, and for neglect of paying tithes and first fruits. He seems to allude to the covenant that Nehemiah renewed with the lord, together with the priests and chief of the nation. In the latter part he foretells the coming of John the Baptist in the spirit and power of Elijah, Mal 3:1; 4:5-6; Mt 11:10,14; 17:10-13; Lu 1:17. He also foretells the two-fold coming of Christ, and the blessedness of those who fear and serve him. Thus the Old Testament closes with Predictions of the Messiah, and the New Testament opens with the record of their fulfillment.
messenger or angel, the last of the minor prophets, and the writer of the last book of the Old Testament canon (Mal 4:4-5,6). Nothing is known of him beyond what is contained in his book of prophecies. Some have supposed that the name is simply a title descriptive of his character as a messenger of Jehovah, and not a proper name. There is reason, however, to conclude that Malachi was the ordinary name of the prophet.
He was contemporary with Nehemiah (comp. Mal 2:8 with Ne 13:15; Mal 2:10-16 with Ne 13:23). No allusion is made to him by Ezra, and he does not mention the restoration of the temple, and hence it is inferred that he prophesied after Haggai and Zechariah, and when the temple services were still in existence (Mal 1:10; 3:1,10). It is probable that he delivered his prophecies about B.C. 420, after the second return of Nehemiah from Persia (Ne 13:6), or possibly before his return.
("messenger of Jah"), or Jehovah; contracted for Malachijah, as Abi for Abijah (2Ki 18:2; compare 2Ch 29:1). The name is that of an office rather than of a person; it occurs in the sense "My (Jehovah's) messenger" (Mal 3:1, compare Hag 1:13). Malachi was Jehovah's last inspired messenger of Old Testament, announcing the advent of the great Messenger of New Testament; the transition link between the two dispensations, "the skirt and boundary of Christianity," to which is due his abrupt earnestness. Not identical with Ezra, as Chaldee paraphrase represents, for Malachi is never called a scribe, always a prophet, but Ezra always a scribe, never a prophet.
The analogy of the headings of the other prophets favors the view that Malachi is a proper name. He supported or followed up the governor Nehemiah in the restoration of the national polity civil and religious, as Haggai and Zechariah previously had supported Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the civil governor in building the temple, Malachi (Zec 1:10; 3) presupposes the temple already built. Like Nehemiah (Ne 13:5,15-30) he censures the secular and mercenary spirit of the priests (Mal 1:10; 2:14-16; 3:8-10); the people's marriages with foreigners; the non-payment of the tithes (Nehemiah states the cause, the high priest's alliance with Tobiah the Ammonite and Sanballat); and the rich men's want of sympathy toward the poor. Nehemiah (Ne 6:7) implies that "prophets" supported him, by his desire, in his reformation.
DATE. About 420 B.C. or later will be about the date, from the above facts. Thus kingly (Zerubbabel and Nehemiah), priestly (Joshua and Ezra), and prophetic men (Haggai and Zechariah and Malachi) headed God's people at the earlier and the later stage in the restoration of Jerusalem. The former period was that of building the temple, the later that of restoring the polity and rebuilding the city. The rebuilding of the temple was the theocratic people's first care; the political restoration was secondary. A small colony of 50,000 settled with Joshua and Zerubbabel (Ezr 2:64). These became intermingled with the pagan during the 60 years that elapsed before Ezra (Ezr 9:6-15; Ne 1:3); "the remnant ... left in the province are in great affliction and reproach, the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and the gates burned with fire."
A second restoration was therefore needed, to mold the national life into Jewish form, by reestablishing the holy law and the city. This was the work of Ezra and Nehemiah with the aid of Malachi in about 50 years, ending with the death of Malachi and Nehemiah, at the close of the fifth century B.C. Hence, the "seven weeks" (49 or 50 years) stand by themselves at the beginning of the foretold "seventy weeks" (Da 9:25), to mark the fundamental difference between them, as the last period of Old Testament revelation, and the 62 weeks of years that follow without revelation, preceding the final week standing out by itself in unrivaled dignity as Messiah's week. The 70 weeks begin with Artaxerxes' seventh year, 457 B.C., when he allowed Ezra (Ezr 7:1,6) to go to Jerusalem in accordance with the commandment which then went forth from God.
Ezra the priest purified the nation from within of pagan elements and restored the law; Nehemiah did the outer work of rebuilding the city and restoring the national polity (Auberlen). The time following Nehemiah's second return to Jerusalem from Persia (subsequently to the 32nd year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, Ne 13:6) is the probable date of Malachi's prophecies, about 420 B.C. Socrates at Athens was at about the same time awakening that corrupt city to self examination. The Jews were now in Jerusalem (Mal 2:11); the Persian "governor" (pechah, pasha'; Mal 1:8) was there, the altar (Mal 1:7) and temple rebuilt (Mal 2:13; 3:1), the sacrifices and feasts celebrated (Mal 1:13-14; 2:3).
Nehemiah bore this very title (pechah, Ne 5:14; 12:26), and its equivalent "tirshatha" (Ne 8:9; 10:1; 7:65; Ezr 2:63), the prefect of a province less extensive than a satrapy. It is curious that Malachi is not mentioned in Nehemiah nor Nehemiah in Malachi. But the same evils are sought to be remedied by both: see above; also compare Mal 2:8, "ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts," with Ne 13:29, "they have defiled the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites." Thus the closing chapter of Old Testament history is the key of the last of Old Testament prophecy.
I. The first two chapters are mainly expostulation;
II. the last two mainly prediction.
(1) Charge against Israel for insensibility to God's love, which so distinguished Israel above Edom (Mal 1:1-5).
(2) Against the priests for contemptible offerings, profaning instead of honoring their Master and their Father, unlike Levi of old, who walked with God in a covenant of life and peace, turning many from iniquity, whereas they departed out of the way and caused others to stumble; therefore God will send a curse upon them, making them contemptible, even as they contemned and failed to give glory to His name (Mal 1:6-2:9).
(3) Reproof of the wrong done to Jewish wives by the foreign marriages. Jehovah being the one common Father of all Israel, putting away an Israelite wife for a foreigner is a wrong done to a sister of the same family (Mal 2:10-16). Explain Mal 2:15; "did not He (God) make us Israelites one? Yet He had the residue of the Spirit (namely, an inexhaustible fullness of the Spirit for the rest of the world, but that was to be given them by God's first choosing out, one godly seed). And wherefore did He make us the one people? That He might seek a seed of God," to be the repository of the covenant, the stock for Messiah, the witness for God against surrounding polytheism. Repudiation of Jewish wives for foreigners set aside this, God's, design.
(4) In answer to their cavil, "where is the God of judgment?" Messiah's forerunner, followed by the sudden coming of Jehovah Himself the Angel of the covenant (which they had despised) to His temple, is foretold (Mal 2:17-4:6). He shall on the one hand refine the sons of Levi, so that Judah's offering shall be pleasant unto Jehovah; on the other hand He shall be a swift witness against wrong doers, wherefore "return unto Me," instead of "robbing Me of tithes," "prove Me now herewith and I will pour you out a blessing," etc. But still they cavil at God's service bringing no "profit," while God's people commune together; so "the day of the Lord" cometh, consuming to the proud scorners, but with healing beams of the Sun of righteousness to fearers of God's name; ushered in by the forerunner Elijah, preaching a return to the law of Moses, and to the piety of Israel's forefathers, lest Jehovah come and smite the earth with a curse.
CANONICITY. Established by New Testament quotations (Mt 11:10; 17:12; Mr 1:2; 9:11-12; Lu 1:17; Ro 9:13). The "incense and pure offering from the rising to the setting of the sun" points on to the spiritual sacrifices of self devotion, prayer, and praise under the gospel, based on the once for all completed sacrifice of Messiah (Ps 141:2; Re 8:3; Heb 13:10,15-16; Ro 12:1; 1Pe 2:5,12); in every place (Joh 4:21-24; 1Ti 2:8). Style. Bold and abrupt, yet with the smoothness of a reasoner rather than a poet, at the same time modeled after the old prophets.
The last of the minor prophets. Nothing is recorded of the prophet's personal history, he is named once only. He was prophet near the time of Nehemiah's return to the land, and the prophecy reveals the moral condition of the people. The first chapter, while it shows their insensibility, shows also the sovereign love of Jehovah to them, a love on which His purpose depended. When charged with their sins, they asked wherein had they sinned. The answer is that they brought to the Lord that which was torn, the lame, and the sick, and had offered polluted bread upon Jehovah's altar: in effect saying, "The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible." This brought judgement upon those who were insensible to what was due to the Lord. Yet Jehovah should be magnified beyond the border of Israel, and His name be great among the Gentiles.
Mal. 2. The priests who ought to have been guides to the people, are called to account. Judah had intimate fellowship with idolatry; had symbolically married the daughter of a strange god; and had associated this with the worship of Jehovah. Israel had also dealt treacherously with the wife of their youth: this was but the discovery of a treacherous principle in them. God hated putting away: notwithstanding all this, they were apathetic, and asked wherein had they wearied God.
Mal. 3 opens with the announcement of the Lord's messenger, which was fulfilled in John the Baptist. But the first coming of the Lord is here connected with His second coming, when He will sit as a refiner, and will purge away the dross, and then shall the sons of Levi offer an offering in righteousness.
God challenged the returned Jews to be faithful to Him, and they should have such a blessing that they would not have room enough to contain it. When called upon to return to Jehovah they are still unconscious of their condition, and ask, "Wherein shall we return?" and "Wherein have we robbed thee?" "What have we spoken so much against thee?" They had said it was in vain to serve the Lord; they had called the proud happy; the wicked were built up, and they that tempted God were delivered.
Yet God's purpose should stand: their land should be a delightsome land, and all nations should call them blessed. In the meantime the remnant are spoken of as those that feared the Lord and thought upon His name: they communed often one with another. God had a book of remembrance of such: they shall be remembered when the Lord of hosts makes up His jewels, and shall be spared when He comes in judgement.
Mal. 4. A day of great judgement is coming when the wicked shall be consumed. But to them that fear His name the Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings (not the morning star here, as for the church). There will be judgement for the disobedient, as was indeed fully shown in the law at the beginning of the covenant with them.
But Elijah will come as Christ's forerunner, to call them to repentance before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. John the Baptist would have fulfilled this mission had they received him; but, except a few, they did not, and therefore when asked if he was Elias, he said, No. He fulfilled the prophecy in the first clause of Mal 3:1; but not that of Mal 4:5-6; the people did not repent. Elijah will still come. There will be judgement first, but great blessing in the end to those that are spared.
MALACHI, the last of the twelve minor prophets. Malachi prophesied about B.C. 400; and some traditionary accounts state that he was a native of Sapha, and of the tribe of Zebulun. He reproves the people for their wickedness, and the priests for their negligence in the discharge of their office; he threatens the disobedient with the judgments of God, and promises great rewards to the penitent and pious; he predicts the coming of Christ, and the preaching of John the Baptist; and with a solemnity becoming the last of the prophets, he closes the sacred canon with enjoining the strict observance of the Mosaic law, till the forerunner, already promised, should appear in the spirit of Elias, to introduce the Messiah, who was to establish a new and everlasting covenant.