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An Introduction to the Book of Malachi

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I. TITLE OF THE BOOK:

A. Hebrew: In Hebrew the book is titled ykalm meaning messenger of Yahweh or my messenger

B. Greek: In the Greek Septuagint the book is titled MALACIAS, a transliteration of the Hebrew title which actually has the sense of His messenger1

II. AUTHOR and Unity of the Book:

A. The traditional understanding has been that the name of the author was Malachi 1:1

B. Nothing is known of Malachi apart from this book

C. Some have understood Malachi to be a title for the work and not the name of the prophet;2 these identify Malachi as anonymous (along with Zechariah 9--14) because of the similar headings in Zechariah 9:1 and 12:1; but the similarities between the headings is not substantial3
On the other hand, the title of Malachi is similar to all of the other minor prophets which would support the notion that Malachi is a name, not a title4

D. Although some have questioned the unity of the book, (especially with reference to the last three verses (4:4-6) which some think are an appendix to the book or the minor prophets as a whole),5 there is a close relationship between 4:4-6 and the rest of Malachi6

E. Three other messengers besides the author are mentioned in the book: the priest (2:7); the forerunner of Messiah (3:1); and the Messenger of the Covenant (3:1)7

III. DATES: It is not possible to be sure but anytime from 568-433 B.C.

A. The reference to a governor points to the postexilic, Persian period (1:8; cf. Hag 1:1, 14; 2:2, 21);8 See also Nehemiah 5:14.

B. Malachi must be after 515 B.C. because that was when the temple was finished; the degeneration of worship may imply that some time has passed since its completion

C. Similarities between Malachi and Ezra-Nehemiah suggest dates around the end of the fifth century B.C.9

1. Both refer to intermarriages with foreign wives (Ezra 9--10; Neh 13:23-27; Mal 2:11)

2. Both refer to failure to pay tithes (Neh 13:10-14; Mal 3:8-10)

3. Both refer to social injustice (Neh 5:1-13; Mal 3:5)

D. A precise date is not possible to identify10

1. Malachi could have preceded Ezra and Nehemiah (468 B.C.?)11

2. Malachi could have followed Ezra and preceded Nehemiah (before 445 B.C.)

3. Malachi could belong to the unspecific interim of Nehemiah's two visits to Jerusalem (after 443 B.C.)

IV. HISTORICAL SETTING:

A. First Return: The first return from Babylonian exile was under Zerubbabel in 538 B.C. when Cyrus was King (539-530) (Ezra 1--6)

1. Return of Haggai and Zechariah: This was probably when Haggai and Zechariah returned to Jerusalem12

2. Temple Rebuilt: Haggai and Zechariah prophesied and the Temple was completed under Darius I (521-486)

a. Levitical sacrifices were reinstituted on an altar built for burnt offerings (Ezra 3:1-6)

b. The foundation for the temple was laid in the second year of the return (536 B.C.; cf. Ezra 3:8-13; 5:16)

c. Samaritan and Persian resistance ended the rebuilding of the temple for 16 years (until 520 B.C.; cf. Ezra 4:4-5)

d. Haggai and Zechariah prophesy from 520-518 B.C. encouraging the nation to rebuild the temple

e. The Temple was completed in 516 B.C. (Ezra 5--6)

B. Second Return: The second return from Babylonian exile was under Ezra in 458/57 B.C. while Artaxexes I Longimanus was King (Ezra 7--10)

1. Ezra 7:1 affirms that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem during the reign of Artaxerxes the king of Persia

2. Ezra 7:8 affirms that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king (Artaxerxes)

a. The is some question as to whether this was in the reign of Artaxerxes I Longimanus (464-423 B.C.) or Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404-359 B.C.)13

b. The evidence seems to be that this was during the reign of Artaxerxes I Longimanus; therefore, the seventh year of his reign would have been 458/457 B.C.

1) Nehemiah 8:2 identifies Ezra as Nehemiah's contemporary

2) The Elephantine Papyri14 [c. 400 B.C.] mentions Johanan (the grandson of Eliashib [Neh 3:1, 20])15

C. Third Return: The third return from Babylonian exile was under Nehemiah in 445/444 B.C. also while Artaxerxes I Longimanus was king (Neh 1--13).

1. Nehemiah I: Nehemiah's first arrival in Jerusalem was probably in 445/444 B.C.

a. Nehemiah 1:2 and 2:1 affirm that the events of Nehemiah occurred in the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes

b. Nehemiah arrived the first time in Jerusalem twelve-thirteen years after Ezra arrived

2. Nehemiah II: Nehemiah's second arrival in Jerusalem was probably in 433/432-420 B.C.

a. Nehemiah 13:6-7 reads, But during all this time I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had gone to the king. After some time, however, I asked leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and learned about the evil ....

b. Nehemiah left Jerusalem in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes

c. Nehemiah may also have returned to Jerusalem in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes (this is not certain since the text reads, After some time, ...

V. PURPOSES:

A. To remind the people that Yahweh will do all that he can to help his people

B. To remind the people that Yahweh will hold them accountable for their evil when He comes as judge

C. To remind the people that Yahweh will honor them for their faithfulness when He comes as judge

D. To urge the people to repent of their evil for covenant blessings to be fulfilled


1 Robert L. Alden, Malachi, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:702.

2 The Targum of Jonathan identified the author after the title of Malachi with whose name was Ezra the scribe. In the Talmud Mordecai is identified as the author of the book (cf. Robert L. Alden, Malachi, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:702).

3 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 277. Continuing he writes, Other arguments in support of taking Malachi as a title (e.g., the alleged inappropriate nature of such a name, the absence of the name elsewhere in the Old Testament, the omission of background material about the prophet) are equally inconclusive ... (Ibid., 277-78; cf also Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 212).

4 Adlen writes, If a man named Malachi did not write the book bearing this name, he would be the only exception. Moreover, Malachi is neither an unlikely name nor an unsuitable one for the author of this last book of the prophets. After all, Malachi was the Lord's messenger. His trumpet made no uncertain sound. Clearly and unmistakably he indicted his people and the priests for their sin and summoned them to righteousness (Robert L. Alden, Malachi, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:702-03).

5 Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, 495-96.

6 See Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 267-68.

7 Mark L. Bailey, An Outline of Malachi, unpublished class notes in 305 postexilic prophets and the gospels, 1.

8 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 278.

9 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 278; Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 213.

10 Chisholm writes, A comparison of Malachi 1:8, which seems to assume the governor accepted offerings from the people, with Nehemiah 5:14, 18, where Nehemiah refuses such offerings, suggests Nehemiah is not the governor referred to in Malachi (Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 278).

11 Baldwin writes, The absence in Malachi of reference to recent legislation such as Ezra and Nehemiah introduced (Ezr. 10:3; Ne. 13:13,23-27) suggests that Malachi preceded them in time. If Ezra came to Jerusalem in 458 BC, Malachi might belong to the previous decade. This would explain the otherwise surprising reaction to Ezra's day of repentance an fasting, before he himself had had opportunity to preach (Ezr. 9:1--10:5). The words of Malachi had already quickened the public conscience (Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 213).

12 Robert L. Alden, Haggai, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:572; cf. Ezra 2.

13 See Albright's early discussions. He seems to have changed his mind about this matter.

14 LaSor et al write, These business documents and letters were found on the island of Elephantine, north of the first cataract of the Nile and opposite Aswan. They belonged to a Jewish military colony established at least as early as the fall of Jerusalem in 586. The texts throw brilliant light on the affairs of the Jewish colony in Upper Egypt, especially for the period 425-400. In 410 these Jews wrote a letter to Johanan, high priest at Jerusalem (Neh. 12:22), regarding the rebuilding of their temple. In 407 they sent a long appeal in the same regard to Bagoas, governor of Judah, in which they mentioned a similar letter to 'Delaiah and Shelemiah, the sons of Sanballat the governor of Samaria. Assuming this is the same Sanballat who was the inveterate enemy of Nehemiah (2:19; 4:1 [MT 3:33]), the Artaxerxes referred to in 2:1 must be Artaxerxes I (LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 560, n. 33; See also ANET, pp. 491ff).

15 Archer writes, This Johanan was a grandson of the Eliashib mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1 and 20 and Nehemiah was a contemporary of Eliashib. It therefore follows that when the biblical record speaks of Nehemiah going to Jerusalem in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (Neh 1:1) and again in his thirty-second year (Neh. 13:6), the reference must be to Artaxerxes I (yielding the date 445 and 433 respectively) rather than the reign of Artaxerxes II (which would result in the dates 384 and 372 respectively--far too late for the high priesthood of Johanan) (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 419-20).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines