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Bible Articles and Lessons: M

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Mal, overview

Time: 430 BC.

"Malachi" means "my messenger." We know nothing of the prophet's parentage, ancestral or tribal roots, geographical origin, or other vocation. All we know is that he received and communicated the word of Yahweh to the Jews of his day.

Some scholars have tried to prove that "Malachi" was not the name of a prophet but the title of an anonymous prophet. None of the references to this book in the NT mention Malachi by name (cp Mat 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27). The arguments for anonymity rest on three points:

Malachi's reference to "your governor" (Mal 1:8) indicates that he wrote after 538 BC, when Cyrus the Persian allowed the Jews to return to their land, which was under Persian control. The word translated "governor" is "pehah", a Persian title (cp Ezra 5:3,6,14; 6:6,7,13; Dan 3:2,3,27; 6:7). Zerubbabel had this title (Hab 1:1,14; 2:2,21) as did Nehemiah (Neh 5:14; 12:26). Malachi must have written after the temple had been rebuilt since he referred to worship there (Mal 1:6-14; 2:7-9, 13; 3:7-10). This would force a date after 515 BC when temple restoration was complete.

Since Malachi addressed many of the same matters that Nehemiah tried to reform, it is tempting to date Malachi during Nehemiah's governorship. Some have conjectured that Malachi ministered while Nehemiah was away from Jerusalem. In the twelfth year of his governorship, Nehemiah returned to Persia for an unknown period of time (Neh 5:14; 13:6). Malachi probably wrote during the years Nehemiah ministered (445-420 BC), and perhaps between 432 and 431 BC, the years when Nehemiah was away from Jerusalem. [See Lesson, Post-exile period, dates.]

Summary: Malachi's message comes to the people in a time of great spiritual decline. It is approx 80 years after the rebuilding of the temple and the promises of the coming Messiah have not yet been realized. As a result, the people had become lazy and developed an increasingly casual attitude toward the worship of God. Malachi states that their sacrifices were unacceptable to God, husbands were unfaithful, and the priests had neglected God's covenants.

Malachi's notable messianic prophecy deals with the forerunner of the Messiah (Mal 3:1; 4:5). He would be like Elijah and would call the Israelites to repentance (cp Mat 11:14; 17:12-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17).


Heading: Mal 1:1

First oracle: Yahweh's love for Israel: Mal 1:2-5

Second oracle: The priests' illicit practices and indifferent attitudes: Mal 1:6 -- 2:9
Third oracle: The people's mixed marriages and divorces: Mal 2:10-16

Fourth oracle: The problem of God's justice: Mal 2:17 -- 3:6

Fifth oracle: The people's sin of robbing God: Mal 3:7-12

Sixth oracle: The arrogant and the humble: Mal 3:13 -- 4:3

A concluding promise and warning: Mal 4:4-6.

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