Introduction to Malachi
The book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. After Malachi there were some four hundred “silent years” before Christ came, and then still another fifty years or so before the first divinely inspired New Testament book (possibly James or Galatians) was written. Thus Malachi occupies a key place in the canon in Scripture.
The name “Malachi” means “my messenger,” or possibly “my angel” (the Hebrew word for “angel” is malak). Since nothing is known of Malachi personally, some commentators have even suggested that he may have been an angel, sent specifically by God to close and seal the Old Testament canon. This is very unlikely, of course.
Others have suggested that Malachi wrote his prophecy shortly before Ezra came to Jerusalem, and thus that he came earlier than either Haggai or Zechariah. This conjecture is also quite unwarranted. It is clear that the temple was complete and its regular worship long established by the time Malachi had come to rebuke its corruption by unfaithful priests and people (Malachi 1:7; 2:8; 3:10).
Malachi was a man thoroughly devoted to God and His righteousness, the last of the Old Testament prophets. He rebukes the same sins as did Nehemiah (compare Malachi 2:11; 3:8-10 with Nehemiah 13:23-31; 13:10-14). Malachi possibly wrote in the interim between the two periods of Nehemiah’s stay and governing in Jerusalem.
It is appropriate that Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet, should prophesy the coming of John the Baptist, who should be considered the first New Testament prophet (Malachi 3:1), and then also the return of Elijah the prophet in the end times (Malachi 4:5).
1:1 Malachi. Malachi, meaning “my messenger” or “my angel,” was the last of the Old Testament prophets, prophesying in about 430 B.C., although the precise date is very uncertain. This was at least several decades after the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah. The temple was completed and its worship restored, but it had already become corrupt. Malachi preached against the same sins that Nehemiah encountered when he came to Jerusalem.
1:2 I loved Jacob. Note Romans 9:11-13, where God’s choice of Jacob over Esau, even before they were born, is cited as an evidence and example of God’s sovereign choice. Their later lives, of course, confirmed the wisdom of God’s selection. However, as far as Malachi’s prophecy is concerned, this fact is given mainly as evidence of God’s undying love for the chosen nation descended from Jacob.
1:3 dragons of the wilderness. These “dragons” (Hebrew tannin) are mentioned fairly frequently in Scripture—first in Genesis 1:21, where the word is translated “whales.” It is best understood as a generic term for what we now call “dinosaurs,” either great marine reptiles or land dinosaurs, depending on context.
1:7 ye say, Wherein. This is the fifth of at least ten rhetorical questions placed by Malachi on the lips of those he was rebuking. This dialectic method of argumentation, adopted for the first time in Scripture here by Malachi, was appropriated by later Jewish teachers as a popular instructional method.
1:14 a corrupt thing. God had given explicit instruction to sacrifice only animals that were without blemish (e.g., Leviticus 22:18-24). Yet, despite the Lord’s punishment of their fathers, as well as His blessing upon the returned exiles, they quickly went back to ignoring or breaking His commandments, this time with the motive of pure greed on the part of both priests and people.