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7. Malachi

The burden of this, the last of the Old Testament prophets, was the glaring inconsistency between the identity of the Jewish community as the people of God and the living out of all that this required of them. Theirs was not the problem of rebuilding the Temple and holy city, for that had long been done by Malachi’s day; rather, it was the issue of holy living and holy service in the aftermath of all the external accomplishments. Malachi, though dead, yet speaks to the modern world about the need to bring performance into line with profession. His message, therefore, is current, especially in light of the coming of the One of whom the prophet so eloquently spoke.

Introduction to Malachi

    Historical Context

Haggai and Zechariah, as we have seen, are noteworthy for the chronological precision with which they related their lives and ministries to their historical milieu. This is not the case at all with Malachi. In fact, one of the major problems in a study of this book is that of locating it within a narrow enough chronological framework to provide a Sitz im Leben sufficient to account for its peculiar themes and emphases. It is this problem that must first be addressed before matters of authorship, unity, purpose, and the like can be undertaken.

Estimates of the date of Malachi have ranged between the extremes of the early exilic period810 and a mid-second-century Maccabean provenence.811 Arguments for and against these suggestions will be offered presently, but for now it is sufficient to note that the vast majority of scholars maintain a middle position—sometime in the fifth century B.C. It will not be necessary therefore to deal with the historical background beyond 400 B.C. Because the introduction to Haggai and Zechariah surveyed the scene down to 520, the beginning of the reign of the Persian King Darius I Hystaspes, the present account of the larger international scene will begin there, to be followed by a brief overview of the life and times of fifth-century Judah.

Darius, whose fiercely contested accession to the Persian throne took place in 522, reigned until 486.812 Once the early turbulence had settled down and he had brought the satrapies of Egypt and Abar Nahara (that is, everything west of the Euphrates, including Palestine, and known to the Assyrians as eber nari, “across the river”) under his own control once more, Darius launched a campaign of empire building. By 516 he had annexed parts of India to his domains and then set his sights on the north and west. After he failed to dislodge the Scythians in the Black Sea region he focused on the independent states of the Aegean islands. Before he could accomplish his objective of bringing them under control, he had to deal with the Ionian provinces which, though under Persian hegemony, decided to assist their island kinfolk. Having at last prevailed, Darius determined to press on to the west and conquer mainland Greece as well. Athens and her fellow city-states organized a united front, however, and in the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. defeated the Persians and forced their withdrawal.

Shortly thereafter Darius died and was succeeded by his son Xerxes (486-465), the Ahasuerus of the Bible (Ezra 4:6; Esther 1:1).813 Xerxes was well prepared for his new role, having served as vice-regent of the Babylonian satrapy for a number of years. Of a more domestic and cultural bent than his father, the new king turned first to the completion of palaces and public works that Darius had begun at Susa and Persepolis. But he could not preoccupy himself with these projects for long, for upon the death of his father various components of the empire began to assert their independence. After he first resecured Egypt, Xerxes raised an enormous military force and struck out for Greece in 481. Though he achieved initial success, he soon lost most of his navy at Salamis. Thereupon he returned to Persia, leaving affairs in the hands of his commander Mardonius. This accomplished little, for within two years the Persians were defeated decisively at Platea and Mycale and were forced to withdraw to Anatolia.

This setback so discouraged and deflated Xerxes that he spent the last decade of his life in wanton self-indulgence and dissipation, a condition no doubt reflected in the book of Esther. At last he was assassinated by a courtier and replaced by Artaxerxes I (465-424), brother of the heir apparent Darius whom he had arranged to be murdered. Artaxerxes tried to suppress unrest in his empire by tax reforms and satrapal reorganization but to little avail. Egypt refused tribute payment by 460 B.C., and the Aegean states, under Athenian leadership, broke away once more. From 450 to 431 Persia and Athens struggled over the disputed territories until at last Athens became engaged in the Peloponnesian Wars and had to desist from engagement with Persia. This allowed Artaxerxes to pay attention to matters closer to home, including those in Yehud (Judea) about which the biblical narratives concern themselves. His death in 424 postdates any recorded biblical event and therefore can mark the end of this brief survey of Persian history.

It is against this broad background that the setting of Malachi must be understood. To define it further requires some attention to the affairs of the Jewish restoration community of which Malachi was a part and whose problems he addressed.814 The biblical record unfortunately is silent about matters in Palestine between the sixth year of Darius (515 B.C.; cf. Ezra 6:15) and the seventh year of Artaxerxes (458; cf. Ezra 7:7) except for a passing reference to Xerxes (Ezra 4:6) and one to Artaxerxes just prior to the journey of Ezra to Jerusalem (c. 460; cf. Ezra 4:7-23). After that the account is comparatively complete until the end of the governorship of Nehemiah (c. 430 B.C.? cf. Neh 13:6-7), thanks primarily to the treatise of Ezra-Nehemiah.

The “passing reference” to Xerxes concerns a letter of accusation written to him by certain antagonists of the Jews who wished to stifle the Jewish work of reconstruction and renewal. Ezra says this took place at the beginning of Xerxes’s reign (4:6), that is, c. 486. Many scholars associate this effort with the Egyptian rebellion that accompanied Xerxes’s accession to the throne, a reasonable but wholly unprovable suggestion.815 This interpretation turns on the supposition that the suppression of Egyptian religion, especially the priesthood, that resulted from the abortive rebellion, may have caused the Jews’ enemies to feel that Xerxes’s policy toward Egyptian religion might be applicable to that of the Jews as well. Thus, they felt free to interfere with the continuation of Jewish efforts to restore their community.816

In any event, nothing more is known until the second recorded attempt at scuttling the rebuilding, which occurred “in the days of Artaxerxes” (Ezra 4:7). This apparently preceded the return of Ezra in 458, for it was clearly the decree of Artaxerxes to forbid further work on the walls of Jerusalem (4:21) that prompted Ezra to persuade the king to issue an overriding decree (7:6, 11-26) and to allow him to return to Jerusalem to bring it to pass. It is helpful to view this series of events against the larger political scene already outlined. Egypt had rebelled against Persia in 460-450 B.C., a rebellion put down after five years by Megabyzus the satrap of Abar Nahara (Eber nari). It is entirely likely that Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their allies took advantage of this unrest to appeal to Artaxerxes to put an end to Jewish rebuilding, especially in light of their allegation that the Jews had tendencies to independence, a set of problems Artaxerxes did not need at that particular moment (Ezra 4:7, 12, 15-16). Ezra, in that case, had to convince the king that the Jews were loyal citizens, something he evidently succeeded in doing.817

Apart from these fragmentary episodes, nothing else can be learned from the period from Zechariah to the return of Ezra, particularly in terms of community and religious life.818 The Temple had been completed by 515, as we noted, and one must assume that the cultus was carried out according to Mosaic prescription and that the state as a whole functioned in an orderly manner, at least for a few years. With the arrival of Ezra in 458,819 however, it becomes possible to see that all was not well and that reformatory measures were already necessary. Politically, there was unrest because of the rebellion of the western satrapies and one can, with good reason as we have already noted, conclude that Artaxerxes allowed Ezra to return to do what he could to stabilize things. At least the king’s letter conveyed by Ezra gives that impression in places (Ezra 7:21, 23-26).

In other respects things were hardly more promising. Upon his return Ezra was made aware most dramatically of the spiritual and moral malaise that had begun to paralyze the life of the restoration community. This was epitomized in the matter of mixed marriage, a clear violation of the Mosaic laws of separation and purification (Ezra 9:1-4). Though serious in and of itself, this breach of covenant appears to have been but symptomatic of a more widespread spirit of compromise (9:1, 14).

The situation did not improve between the year of Ezra’s reformation (9:5-10:44) in 458 and the beginning of Nehemiah’s governorship 13 years later. To make matters worse, Megabyzus declared his jurisdiction independent of Persia in 449 B.C.. Though he came back into the fold two years later, the situation in Palestine had become so destabilized that one can well understand why Artaxerxes allowed his beloved cupbearer Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem in 445. The king must have been convinced that Nehemiah could straighten things out politically as well as accomplish the social and spiritual objectives for whose undertaking he had sought permission.

When Nehemiah arrived, he found the Jewish state in even worse shambles than he had anticipated. The walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins, the perennial foes of his people continued their unremitting harassment, and the spiritual and moral condition of the people was lamentable. After some religious and political appointments (Neh. 7:1-2) Nehemiah turned to the pressing economic concerns. Food and other staples had become scarce, inflation was rampant, and the rich were exploiting the poor by demanding exorbitant prices for goods (Neh. 5:1-5). In order to address these and other problems, Nehemiah assembled the people for a great ceremony of covenant renewal (7:73-9:38). In his prayer of public confession he alludes to the sins of the people that were sapping the spiritual vitality of the community (9:36-37). These are more clearly spelled out in the response of the people (10:28-39) who pledged to avoid intermarriage with pagans, to observe the sabbaths, to pay temple taxes, to follow the regulations concerning tithing and the offering of the firstborn, and to be faithful to the ministry of the Temple.

Upon his return to Susa some 12 years later, things began to unravel once more, and when Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem (in 433 B.C.) after a brief stay in Susa, he had to face the same issues all over again. Tobiah the Ammonite, his adamant foe, had been granted living quarters in the sacred Temple and that by the high priest Eliashib (13:4-5). The son of Joiada, another priest, had married a daughter of Sanballat, the current satrap of Abar Nahara (13:28). Moreover, Nehemiah found that the Levites were being neglected, the sabbath was violated routinely, and illegal intermarriage was once more commonplace. By force of personal leadership and clearly recognized authority, Nehemiah responded to these issues and put the house of Judah in order. Though not demanding divorce as Ezra before him had done (Ezra 10:1-4), Nehemiah showed his intense displeasure over the matter and threatened dire consequences if such marriages should be contracted in the future (Neh. 13:23-27). The biblical account ends at this point, but there is no reason to doubt that Nehemiah’s reforms remained intact for some time to come.

With this rsum of Persian and biblical history of the fifth century in view, it is appropriate now to consider the setting of Malachi. As suggested above, this is one of the major problems in the study of the book. The author nowhere identifies himself except by name, and apart from one or two oblique references, never links his work to a precise historical situation. Therefore, one must look to a whole milieu or climate against which the teachings and topics of the book can be highlighted, a most subjective procedure to say the least.

A single historical datum, Malachi’s reference to the overthrow of Edom, has provided a benchmark for many scholars (Mal. 1:2-5). Bruce Dahlberg argued that the conquest in mind must be that under the Babylonians in connection with the assassination of Gedaliah, the Jewish governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar. In reprisal, the Babylonians attacked the responsible parties and presumably included their Edomite allies in the process (Jer. 41:1-18).820 Dahlberg is correct in asserting that Edom was antagonistic to both Judah and Babylon in Judah’s last years (cf. Jer. 25:21; 27:1-11) and that she would fall to Babylon (cf. 9:25-26). However, it is gratuitous to assume that the destruction of Edom in Malachi 1:2-5 is the one in view in Jeremiah and, even if it is, to conclude that Malachi must be describing it as a contemporary event. Even Dahlberg’s argument that Edom suffered two Babylonian campaigns—one in 587 and the other in 582-581—cannot help his case. Even though Dahlberg takes the former as having happened and the latter as still to come to pass (thus requiring a date of composition between the two dates), he cannot prove that the anticipated overthrow of Edom is precisely that of 582. All that is known is that it is still future to Malachi. The fact that the Edomites are not included in Jeremiah’s account of the Babylonian second conquest of 582 (Jer. 52:30) certainly does not help Dahlberg’s hypothesis.

Inasmuch as a future destruction of Edom is anticipated in Mal. 1:4, when did it occur? The only time known in the extant historical literature is that of the Nabataean expulsion of the Edomites in 312 B.C., which resulted in their replacement by the Nabataeans and the subsequent development of a mixed people called Idumaeans.821 Even if this is the case, all that it reveals is that the collapse of Edom is somewhere in Malachi’s future. One could, of course, argue on dogmatic grounds that the “prediction” of Edom’s fall was a vaticinium ex eventu, in which case the book (or at least 1:4) would have to be dated after 312 if that is the fall in question. Dogma has no place in determining historical reality, however.

A similar but more extreme position held by earlier scholars such as Spoer is that the predicted downfall must have occurred under Judas Maccabeus who administered a crushing defeat to the Idumaeans between 165 and 161 B.C.822 Again, this is possible inasmuch as the event was future to Malachi, but if it be argued that the prophet is describing a past occurrence, Spoer’s position suffers great difficulty, for Malachi is attested as early as the early second century in the apocryphal literature.823 It must have been written some decades before that to be accorded any kind of status as Scripture by then.

A position more in line with the evidence of Malachi itself requires the book to have originated sometime in the fifth century, more likely in the first half. The prophet refers to the cultus as though it were in regular operation (1:6-14; 2:7-9, 13; 3:7-10), thus presupposing the rebuilding of the Temple and the re-establishment of its services. One might object that this could refer to a time prior to the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, but Malachi’s reference to Judah’s “governor” (hj*p#, peha) in 1:8 does not favor this. The term peha does indeed occur before the Exile but always in reference to foreign officials (Isa. 36:9; Jer. 51:23) or as a nontechnical term for an Israelite overseer (1 Kings 10:15).824 One should note that Gedaliah himself is never designated by this term but simply by the locution “the one appointed over” (dyq!p=h!, hipqd). It is only in postexilic times that peha becomes a technical term to refer to a Judean official such as governor (cf. Neh. 2:9, Hag. 1:1, 14; 2:2, 21; et passim). Malachi’s use is clearly at home in a postexilic context.

How early in that context is the matter now in question. Because the cultus is well established in the Temple, a date earlier than 500 B.C. seems unrealistic. Moreover, the issues that concern Malachi—religious irregularities, priestly corruption, hypocrisy, and divorce—are not at all raised in Haggai and Zechariah, a fact that tends to place Malachi considerably later in order for these aberrations to have arisen and to have become characteristic.

On the other hand, Ezra, who arrived in Jerusalem in 458 B.C., addresses none of these problems specifically, and except for intermarriage, which is the focus of Mal. 2:11, seems unconcerned about such matters. In other words, Malachi’s concerns are not Ezra’s. One can only conclude that Malachi was later than Ezra, or that his ministry of rebuke and correction had been effective. The latter seems preferable, for in order for Malachi to postdate Ezra his ministry would have had to coincide with the governorship of Nehemiah or even to have come later. This dating, in fact, is widely accepted.825 Against this is the fact that Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries, and that both were concerned with the same issues, particularly intermarriage with pagans.826 Moreover, their reforms appear to have been successful, at least by the end of Nehemiah’s tenure in 430 B.C. It is inconceivable that Malachi’s message could reflect conditions in the latter part of that period (458-430) or, indeed, for many years thereafter.

But could not Malachi have composed his work early in the days of Ezra, before the Ezra-Nehemiah reforms took effect, and could not his preaching have provoked the reforms in the first place or at least have encouraged them?827 This is possible, but once more it must be pointed out that Malachi’s concerns are much different from those of either Ezra or Nehemiah, for he was almost wholly transfixed by concerns about the cult. It is much more likely that he spoke to and remedied conditions that prevailed before Ezra ever came on the scene, conditions that in fact Ezra faced (if at all) in a totally different form (Ezra 7:1-10). In short, a date between 500 and 460 seems best, 480-470 being a reasonable guess.828

    Literary Context

According to every canonical tradition Malachi is the last of the prophets in the “scroll of the Twelve,” that is, the 12 minor prophets. This suggests, among other things, that his book was written last and provided a fitting climax to the whole prophetic collection by its collocation of the old and the new—the prophet Moses with the law and the prophet Elijah with the promise. Its location at the very end of the Christian canon enhances this climactic element all the more.829

The literary context of the book cannot be fully elaborated without some understanding of its authorship, date, and other matters. The date has just been reviewed, and the matter of authorship will be examined in the exposition of Malachi 1:1. Clearly, as the previous discussion has pointed out, Malachi is later than Haggai and Zechariah and, as the commentary will show, is dependent on them and on the rest of the antecedent revelation of the OT for its inspiration and major themes.830 But the relationship is organic and self-conscious and cannot be the result of the attachment of an originally anonymous work to the composition of Proto-Zechariah simply because, as some scholars argue, it, like Zechariah 9:1 and 12:1, commences with the word aC*m^ (massa), “burden” or “oracle.”831

As Childs has demonstrated, no case can be made for the attachment of Zechariah 9-11 and 12-14 to Zechariah 1-8 on the basis of the term massa—to say nothing of seeing Malachi as a third addition because it shares that heading with them.832 In fact, the resemblances are quite ambiguous and superficial. In Malachi massa appears to be in the absolute form and should be simply rendered “Oracle,” not “oracle of.” In Zechariah 9:1, however, it seems not to be a true heading at all but part of a poetic oracle that continues through v. 8. As for Zechariah 12:1, the entire first half of the verse functions as a superscription. Both 9:1 and 12:1 should be taken as constructs, “the oracle (burden) of,” etc. Thus, Malachi is a case by itself and cannot have been placed where it is canonically only because of its being perceived as a homeless orphan in need of parental attachment. It appears where it does for clearly perceivable literary and theological reasons.

      Language and Style

Scholarship is divided as to whether Malachi was composed as poetry or as prose. This is reflected in the two major modern editions of the Hebrew text in that BHK apparently sees little or no poetry at all in Malachi whereas BHS understands at least 1:6-8a to be such. If, as Alden suggests, parallelism is the sine qua non of Hebrew poetry, there indeed appears to be little poetry in the book.833 Yet, it does not lack poetical quality, as the many examples of rhythmical pattern (1:11; 3:1; 3:6; 3:7), figures of speech (1:6, 9; 2:3, 6, 7; 3:2; 3:19-20) [EB 4:1-2]), and chiasmus (1:2-3; 2:7a-b; 2:17 a-b; 3:1c-d; 3:11; 3:24a [EB 4:6a]) make clear.834 In addition there are such devices as antithesis 1:6-11), emphatic utterances (47 occurrences of YHWH in the first person out of 55 verses in all), graphic diction (2:3), verbal shifts (3:9; 4:4), and closure (1:6).835

Most characteristic of Malachi’s style, however, is the rhetorical question, the essential element in what Wendland calls a “dialectic style which serves a didactic-admonitory purpose.”836 Though Malachi did not introduce this technique to the biblical literature (cf. Deut 29:23-24; 1 Kings 9:8-9; Isa. 49:11; 50:1-2; Jer. 12:12-13; 15:1-2; 22:8-9; Ezek. 11:2-3; 18:19; Amos 5:18; Hag. 1:9-10; 2:10-11), it occurs nowhere else with such frequency and as a fundamental part of the patterning of the material. At least seven times the prophet attributes the rhetorical question to his audience (1:2, 6, 7; 2:17; 3:7, 8, 13) and in turn asks such questions of them (1:6, 8, 9; 2:10, 15; 3:2).837 How these questions provide organization and cohesion to the overall composition will be described in the following section.

In conclusion, careful analysis of specific literary devices and consideration of the overall form and structure of the work make it clear that Malachi, far from being, in the words of J. M. P. Smith, a work in which “the element of beauty is almost wholly lacking, there being but slight attempt at ornamentation of any kind,”838 is rather one of exquisite artistry. The fact that it is not as a whole to be described as poetry does not mean that it lacks a poetic impact in its craftsmanship as well as in its message.

      Literary Integrity

The dialogic pattern of the book of Malachi has been recognized by scholars from earliest times as a self-evident indication of its unity. The major exceptions adduced by critical scholars are 2:11-12 (or 2:11b-13a) and 4:4-6, both of which are construed as later interpolations.839 Some also assert that 1:11-14; 2:2, 7; and 3:16 may not be original.840 These latter examples rest on extremely slender evidence of a most subjective nature, as the exposition later will show. As for 2:11-12, the passage dealing with mixed marriage and idolatry, one objection is that it “fits badly from a structural point of view … in the context of ii, 10-16 [so] it is probable that we have here a later addition.”841 The second major “addition,” 4:4-6 (HB 3:22-24), is said to consist of an appendix (4:4) equating the message of Malachi with the Mosaic Law and a clarification of the identity of the anonymous messenger (4:5-6) referred to earlier (3:1).842

The charge that 2:11-12 does not fit the context betrays a lack of understanding of how the offending passage is integral to not only its immediate context but also the patterning of the book as a whole. This will become clear presently. The argument that the “appendix” (4:4) is an addition depends on the assumption that neither D nor P, which the appendix presupposes, was likely available at the time of the original composition of the book.843 This approach obviously rests on a prior commitment to the existence and dating of only hypothetical sources and cannot therefore be taken seriously. Finally, to insist that 4:5-6 is a clarification of 3:1, and to offer no hard evidence to support such a claim, is clearly a flagrant example of begging the question. There is not the slightest reason why Malachi himself could not have penned these words of admonition (4:4) and hope (4:5-6), forming, as they do, a most appropriate epilogue to the entire OT prophetic witness.

In recent years form-critical research has identified the “catechetical format”844 of Malachi as employing speech known as Disputationsworte, Streitsgesprache, “casuistic-dialectic,” and the like.845 Regardless of the terminology used, it is clear that the book is organized around a series of six interrogations and responses, usually delimited as follows: 1:2-5; 1:6-2:9; 2:10-16; 2:17-3:5; 3:6-12; 3:13--4:3.846 Malachi 1:1 is the introduction and 4:4-6 the conclusion. Thus, the entire corpus falls within this structure. It is impossible (and unnecessary) here to review all the approaches that proceed from this fundamental form-critical analysis, so only two will be adduced as representative.

In 1972, James A. Fischer847 proposed to define the units in terms of “questionings,” the first four of which embrace all of Malachi 1:2-3:5, viz., 1:2-5; 1:6-2:9; 2:10-16; and 2:17-3:5. The first three questionings consist of one set of questions and answers, whereas the fourth has two sets. The fifth and sixth questionings have two and one sets of questions and answers respectively. But Fischer is not so much concerned with form as with the teaching underscored by the form, teaching embodied in the introductory statements in which each questioning is proposed to YHWH. To Fischer these statements are as follows: (1) YHWH loves Jacob (1:2a), (2) He is Israel’s father (1:6a), (3) He is father of all the Israelites (2:10a), (4) He wants honesty, not words (2:17a), (5) He is faithful to His Word (3:6), and (6) a repetition of His desire for honesty, not mere words (3:13a). The responses to the questions reveal the following: (1) I loved Jacob, (2) I want honest worship, (3) I want real faithfulness, (4) I want you to believe that I am just, (5) I want real worship, and (6) I want honesty. Thus, the essential message of Malachi, according to Fischer, may be found in the statements that prompt the questions and their corresponding answers.

A more disciplined and consistent case for patternism is that of Ernst Wendland in his 1985 article, “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi.”848 By “linear” Wendland means diachronic, a plan which divides Malachi up into the six traditional units that he calls “disputes.” Each of these has three elements—assertion, objection, and response—the first two of which define the problem while the third provides the divine instruction. The linear pattern is thus A-O-R, though there may be subdivisions in the pattern of the different disputes. By way of example of both a simple linear versus a complex linear pattern, one can look at 1:2-5 and 3:6-12. The former has A (2a), O (2b), R (2c-5) whereas the latter is A (6-7a), O (7b), R (8a-12) subdivided into a further A (8a), O (8b), R (8c-12). The resulting message by this approach is, “The merciful yet Mighty Lord of Hosts calls his faithless people to repentance” (p. 114). Wendland summarizes this part of his discussion by affirming that “the criticism that there is no order in the presentation of the prophecy’s thematic idea is quite unfounded,” a statement that he has ably defended.

As for concentric patterning, Wendland sees not only a diachronic scheme in each of the literary units but a cohesion among them that is clearly manifested in chiasm or ring patterns, either A-B-A, A-B-C-B-A or some other variation. Again, only two examples can be given, and since 1:2-5 and 3:6-12 were used before to illustrate the linear approach, it will be interesting to see how they yield to this other. It will be best to set them out approximately as Wend land does.

First, Dispute One (1:2-5)

    A HWH refers to Jacob in blessing (2)

      B YHWH’s judgment upon Esau (3)

        C Edom’s lack of repentance (4a)

      B YHWH’s judgment upon Esau (4b)

    A YHWH refers to Jacob in blessing (5)

Dispute Five (3:6-12)

    A Introduction: a divine premise (6)

      B Appeal—repent (7)

        C Indictment: “you have robbed me” (8)

          D Verdict: curse (9a)

        C Indictment: “you are robbing me” (9b)

      B Promise—blessings on those who repent (10-11)

    A Conclusion: a messianic vision (12)

Wendland strengthens his case by pointing out such devices as parallelism, rhyme, alliteration, anaphora, and the like, all of which tie the individual pericopes together and each with the others. Although one must use utmost discretion in contending for such kinds of patternism, lest it result in imposition of a structure upon a text and not description of such structure within the text, Wendland’s work on Malachi most assuredly is sober in its method and persuasive in its conclusions. The result is an appreciation for the composition as it stands: a piece demonstrating great creative unity as well as profound theological instruction. The task of those who maintain that certain portions of the book, such as 2:11-12 and the others already mentioned, were late interpolations has undeniably been made more daunting by this fresh, wholistic approach.

      Literary Structure

In dealing with matters of the integrity of the book of Malachi, it has been necessary already to treat its structure as a response to certain prevailing critical positions that advocated either the likelihood of redactionary additions to or rearrangement of the original composition. There is no need to repeat that here or to elaborate. What follows then is an outline of the book that recognizes its literary structure on the one hand and yet provides a practical way of proceeding in the exposition on the other.

Introduction (1:1)

    I. God’s Election of Israel (1:2-5)

    II. The Sacrilege of the Priests (1:6-2:9)

      A. The Sacrilege of Priestly Service (1:6-14)

        1. The Inferior Sacrifices (1:6-10)

        2. Their Insolent Spirit (1:11-14)

      B. The Sacrilege of the Priestly Message (2:1-9)

        1. The Corrupted Vocation of the Priests (2:1-7)

        2. The Covenant Violation of the Priests (2:8-9)

    III. The Rebellion of the People (2:10-16)

      A. The Disruption of the Covenant (2:10-13)

      B. The Illustration of the Covenant (2:14-16)

    IV. Resistance to YHWH (2:17-3:21 [EB 4:3])

      A. Resistance through Self-deceit (2:17-3:5)

        1. The Problem (2:17)

        2. The Promise (3:1-5)

      B. Resistance through Selfishness (3:6-12)

        1. The Problem (3:6-9)

        2. The Promise (3:10-12)

      C. Resistance through Self-sufficiency (3:13-21 [EB 4:3])

        1. The Problem (3:13-15)

        2. The Promise (3:16-21 [4:3])

    V. Restoration through YHWH (3:22-24 [EB 4:4-6])

    Distinctive Teaching849

Malachi appeared on the scene at a time when the euphoria of the postexilic Jewish community following the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of social and political life was beginning to give way to cynicism in both the sacred and secular arenas. The priests had begun to become corrupt in their official capacities as well as their private lives; the people had mingled themselves with the pagans around them by undertaking illicit marriages and pandering to false religious systems; and the nation as a whole had lost the ardor of messianic, eschatological hope, focusing its attention on the mundane necessities and pleasures of the here and now.

Malachi’s message, as the prophetic word of YHWH, was one of rebuke and indictment of each of these ills and across the social spectrum, a message that ended, however, with a note of ultimate hope. In a series of disputations the man of God called to account all the guilty, challenging them to face up to and confess their sins to the Lord of the covenant before whom, in fact, they stood in arraignment. His word is strong, impassioned, and unrelenting, for he lived in critical times. Unless he could get his message across, there was real and imminent danger that all the gains of postexilic renewal would be irretrievably lost. As the last of Israel’s kerygmatic heralds, Malachi reached back to the beginning of her covenant election and forward to the promise of covenant fulfillment, bridging the two with his urgent insistence that the theocratic people be worthy of their calling, for the King of all the earth was at hand.

    Transmission of The Text

A glance at the critical apparatus of both BHK and BHS reveals that the majority of comment pertains to suggested improvement on difficult or anomalous Hebrew forms and phrases and not to variations preserved in the ancient non-Masoretic MSS or major versions. This is not surprising given the generally well-transmitted and perspicuous nature of the present received text. Those divergences from MT by the LXX, Syr., Targum, Vg, and other witnesses that are attested to are generally not of a substantial nature but are the kind inherent in any attempt to translate one language into another. An exception appears to be that of the LXX arrangement of 3:22-24 (EB 4:4-6). The Greek has 23, 24, 22, the change due no doubt, as Verhoef suggests,850 to the desire for the book to end on a less threatening note and not because of a different vorlage.

Despite Ralph L. Smith’s judgment that “there are some serious textual problems in the book of Malachi,”851 his own examples show anything but (1:3, “jackals” or “pastures”?; 1:11, two hophal participles; 1:12, the problematic obyn] [nbo, “fruit”]; 2:4, the uncertain twyhl [lhyt]; 2:12, the difficult hnuw ru [`r w`nh]; 2:15, “one” as either the subject or object of “make”). The exposition will deal with these and others (e.g., 1:5; 2:10, 17a) and will show that Verhoef’s assessment that “the Hebrew text (MT) makes good sense and appears to be well preserved” (p. 168) is no exaggeration.

Introduction and God’s Election of Israel

    A. Introduction (1:1)


1 Oracle: The word of YHWH to Israel through *Malachi.

Exegesis and Exposition

The book of Malachi, like Zech. 9-11 and 12-14, is introduced by the word aC*m^ (massa), “oracle.” Its meaning as a technical prophetic term has already been addressed (see pp. 66ff.). As noted in the Introduction, many scholars view Malachi as an anonymous work that freely floated at one time until, like the equally anonymous Zech. 9-11 and 12-14, it was joined to Proto-Zechariah (chaps. 1-8), thus finding its present place in the canon. Besides its common anonymity with the “Deutero-Zechariah” materials, it shared with them the massa heading.

We observed, however, that the word massa in Zechariah need not be a heading at all because it may well be in the construct-genitive form in both cases, introducing in typical oracular style an entire pericope. Here in Malachi, on the other hand, it seems clear that the word is in the absolute state, that is, it stands independently as a heading. Evidence for this, despite the similarity of wording in the initial clauses of both Zech. 9:1 and 12:1, on the one hand, and Mal. 1:1, on the other, lies in the remainder of the formula of Mal. 1:1, which militates against viewing massa as anything but absolute.852 The stylized “the word of YHWH unto (la#, el) X through (dy~B=, beyad) Y” occurs elsewhere without massa and (as here) without a verb (e.g., 2 Chron. 35:6). Also, the addressee is preceded by el (not lu^ [`al] as, for example, in Jer. 14:1; 46:1; Zech. 12:1), and the word is said to come literally “by the hand of” (dy~B=, [beyad]), an idiom missing in Zech. 9:1 and 12:1 (but attested in Jer. 50:1; Hag. 1:1, 3; 2:1; cf. 1 Chron. 11:3; 2 Chron. 29:25; 35:6). Though only two other passages (Prov. 30:1; 31:1) suggest an absolute usage for massa, its function here in Malachi 1:1 as such seems beyond question. In short, the oracular formula embracing la#dy~B= (beyad el) and without the massa, attested elsewhere; the redundancy inherent in taking massa as construct; and the existence of absolute massaelsewhere as a heading distance Malachi’s use of the term from Zechariah’s and favor its grammatical independence here.

Syntactically, the oracle is defined as “the word of YHWH to Israel through Malachi.” That it is to Israel and not Judah, given the postexilic setting of the message, must be explained as reflecting at least a tinge of eschatological hope, for in the day of YHWH there will be only one people, Israel, as the eschatological promise elsewhere makes clear (Joel 2:27; 3:2, 16; Amos 9:9, 14; Zech. 9:1; 12:1). It also bears witness to the unity of all the covenant people.853 More in line with the immediate context, however, is the likelihood that Israel is another term for Jacob, whose election is described in vv. 2-5. There is thus a reflection back on YHWH’s covenant dealings with the nation, going back as far as the of Jacob over Esau. That nation was, of course, Israel, not just Judah, in those pristine days at Sinai.

The word to Israel is mediated through (dy~B= [beyad], “by the hand of”; cf. Hag. 1:1) Malachi. Even though Malachi is not further identified by an adjective or apposition such as “the prophet” or by a statement of kinship or other introductory device as is usually the case (cf. Isa. 1:1; Ezek. 1:3; Hos. 1:1; Joel 1:1; etc.), one would not ordinarily question the appellation as a personal name (cf. Obad. 1). However, this is not the case at all as the vast literature on the matter clearly shows.

The principal objection to taking the appellation as the name of the author is that the same word appears in 3:1 where it must mean “my messenger.” It is then assumed that there was no name in the original heading and to fill that void “my messenger” of 3:1 became the “Malachi” of 1:1.854 If one were to object that there is no analogy to this lack of original citation of author in any of the canonical prophetic works, the response typically is that Zech. 9:1 and 12:1 provide such analogies, for Zech. 9-11 and 12-14, like Malachi, allegedly were originally anonymous.855 The petitio princeps here is obvious. The critic assumes Zech. 9-11 and 12-14 to be independent of Zechariah, leaving the two compositions without attribution, and then concludes that they are anonymous. If this is the case, the anonymity of Malachi has its requisite analogies.

A secondary objection to Malachi as a personal name meaning “my messenger” is that it appears to be only hypocoristic of an anonymous epithet from malakyahu or the like.856 This is buttressed by the observation that the appellation is otherwise unknown as a personal name.857 By way of reply to the last point, the uniqueness of a personal name is no hindrance to its authenticity, for there are many biblical examples (cf. Abraham, Moses, and David out of scores that could be cited) whose authenticity cannot be challenged and which, incidentally, are neither theophoric nor clearly hypocoristic.

As for the first point—the lack of normal naming elements—some scholars suggest, as indicated above, that Malachi is a shortened form of Malachijah, “YHWH is my messenger” or the like. Parallels are found in such names as Abi/Abijah (2 Kings 18:2; 2 Chron. 29:1) and Uri/Urijah (1 Kings 4:19; 1 Chron. 11:41).858 But even lacking such evidence, names of the form Malachi occur such as Ethni (1 Chron. 6:41) and Beeri (Gen. 26:34).859 Appeals to orthographic irregularity carry little weight, therefore, in determining whether Malachi is a name.

Finally, the fact that yk!a*l=m^ (malak) occurs in 3:1 may be turned on its head to show that the prophet Malachi, far from deriving his name from that passage, is making a play on his own name to get across a point. Thus the man of God, “my messenger,” looks to the day when YHWH, in His own words, says, “I send ‘My messenger.’” This is no less possible than the constant use of the word group uv^y` / hu*Wvy= (yasa/ yesua), “he saves/salvation,” by Isaiah (25:9; 33:2, 22; 35:4; 43:12; 49:25; 52:7, 10; 59:11; 60:18; 63:9) whose name means “salvation (is) of YHWH” or “YHWH saves.” The objection that a parent would be unlikely to name a son “(YHWH is) my messenger”860 is gratuitous in light of such bold names as Isaiah, Hosea (u^v@oh [hosea`],”salvation”), and Joshua (u^Wvohy+ [yehosua`], “YHWH saves”). Besides, it is possible that the yodh afformative is not the first-person pronominal suffix “my” but a yodh compaginis, the original genitive ending (GKC, 90k), resulting in “messenger of (YHWH)” and not “(YHWH is) my messenger.”861 This relieves the problem of an overly-bold concept of YHWH serving as messenger to a prophet rather than vice-versa.

    B. God’s Election of Israel (1:2-5)


2 “I have loved you,” says YHWH, but you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was Esau not Jacob’s brother,” says YHWH, “yet I loved Jacob. 3 As for Esau, I hated him; I made his mountains desolate and gave his inheritance over to the *jackals of the desert.” 4 Yet Edom said, “We are devastated, but we will once again build the ruined places.” Thus says YHWH of hosts, “They indeed may build, but I will overthrow. They will be known as the wicked territory, the people against whom YHWH has eternal indignation. 5 Your eyes will see (it), and then you will say, ‘May YHWH be magnified *beyond the border of Israel!’”

Exegesis and Exposition

The covenant relationship initiated by YHWH with Israel, hinted at in v. 1, is fully developed in this introductory section of the book. This is clear from the election motif implied in the Jacob-Esau antithesis and in the technical language of covenant in vv. 2-3 especially. The scene shifts back to the patriarchal era when YHWH first made promise to Abraham of a seed and land through and in which he would bring blessing to all the earth (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-5, 18-21; 17:1-8). This was subsequently reaffirmed to Isaac (Gen. 26:1-4) and, most emphatically, to Jacob (Gen. 27:27-29; 28:13-15; 35:9-15; 46:2-4).

Of particular importance is the narrative of Gen. 27. There, by ruse and deceit, Jacob, though the younger son of Isaac, received both the birthright of the major share of the inheritance and the blessing to be transmitted forward in association with the seed and land promises. Members of Malachi’s own generation of Jews were in direct succession to Jacob and were the recipients of the covenant blessing, as the equation of the “you” in the first clause of v. 2 with the “Jacob” in the last clause makes clear. YHWH loved them because he had first loved their patronymic ancestor Jacob.

Modern studies of covenant language have shown that the word “love” (bh@a*, aheb, or any of its forms) is a technical term in both the biblical and ancient Near Eastern treaty and covenant texts to speak of choice or election to covenant relationship, especially in the so-called suzerainty documents.862 There may well be emotional overtones to the term, but fundamentally it is one of a legal or social nature. What YHWH is saying here, then, is that in ancient times He chose Jacob to be the special recipient of His grace, the channel through whom He would mediate His salvific purposes.

In answer to the question of Malachi’s audience— “How have you loved us?” —the answer was plain. He loved them by choosing their father, a choice that was never annulled and whose benefits extended to them.863 Evidence of that love was the fact that Israel survived through the ages up to their own day. Even Babylonian destruction of state and temple and the exile of the flower of the community had not canceled the promise, for here they were, a century after the deportation, still alive and flourishing in their restored nation and renewed religious and social life.

Esau, on the other hand, had not only been “hated” (that is, rejected, as an}c*, sane, means in covenant terms)864 in the original story, but his nation Edom had known nothing but YHWH’s disfavor ever since. In fact, v. 3 seems to suggest that disfavor had finally found recent expression in a devastation of Edom that left her desolate and abandoned.

As noted in the Introduction scholars have suggested many occasions to which the passage may be alluding. The history of Edom is so sparsely documented that it is impossible to be certain, but most likely the circumstance in mind is the series of Babylonian incursions into Palestine and the Transjordan from 605-540 B.C.865 The justification for this view is that the sparing of Judah from annihilation and her subsequent return and restoration are a mark or YHWH’s love that would be particularly apparent to a post-exilic audience. The contrast to that—the decimation and virtual non-recovery of Esau/Edom, the “hated” —would most likely be associated with the same event. Jacob survived despite the Babylonian conquest whereas Esau did not.

It is true that Edom at least partially recovered, a fact that v. 4 makes clear, but not for long, for by the end of the fourth century what was left of the nation was overrun by the Nabataeans who went on to bring indigenous Edomite existence to an end by either physical annihilation or intermarriage. In the end there was (and is) no Edom, but Israel continued (and continues) on. In no clearer terms could YHWH communicate to His people what it meant for Him to love them.

So decisive would Edom’s destruction be that it would be known thenceforth as “wicked territory” (hu*v=r] lWbG+, gebul ris`a). When God’s own people see it come to pass, they will say, “May YHWH be magnified beyond the border (gebul) of Israel” (v. 5). This primary meaning of the word makes an interesting repetitive device in connection with the secondary meaning in v. 4.

The severity of YHWH’s judgment on Edom is not only because of Edom’s own specific national sinfulness (cf., e.g., Num. 20:14-21; Deut. 2:8; Jer. 49:7-22; Ezek. 25:12-14; Amos 1:11-12; Obad. 10-12) but more particularly because Edom is almost a paradigm in the Old Testament of antitheocratic sentiment, a feeling especially to be condemned because Edom was a “brother people.”866 Just as Esau had despised his birthright (Gen. 25:34), so the Edomites typify those who despise the overtures of divine grace. The overthrow of Edom, then, both past and future, speaks of the judgment of all wicked nations that arrogantly rise up against YHWH and His elect people.

The result of Edom’s downfall is the exaltation of YHWH “beyond the border of Israel” (v. 5). The reason for this recognition of YHWH by the nations surrounding Israel and even afar off is quite evident: YHWH has shown Himself faithful to the covenant. He had promised to the patriarchs that He would bless those who blessed them, but those who cursed them (like Edom) would be cursed. This marked the course of Old Testament history and has never been abrogated. Thus there is an eschatological note here as well, for the exaltation of YHWH is a hallmark of the end times (Mic. 5:4).

The subject of the exclamation of v. 5 is somewhat ambiguous, perhaps deliberately. The oracle as a whole is addressed to Israel (v. 1), but v. 4 consists of a response to arrogant Edom. The eyes that see this humiliation of Edom may be those of Israel or of Edom or both.867 In any event, YHWH is exalted when he demonstrates His sovereignty, an exaltation in which all men ultimately will share.

Additional Notes

1:1 For yk!a*l=m^, lit. “my messenger,” the LXX has ajggevlou aujtou', “his messenger,” possibly suggesting already an early tradition about the anonymous authorship of the book. On the other hand, this reading may reflect a deliberate glossing by the LXX to soften the impact of the prophet being named “(YHWH is) my messenger.” The result would be, perhaps, “(he is) his (i.e., YHWH’s) messenger.” The Targum offers: “By Malachi whose name is called Ezra the scribe.” Hence the notion that Malachi is not a personal name receives support from that quarter as well. As a whole, however, the reasons favoring it as a proper name outweigh the objections.

1:3 BHS suggests yT!t^n`, “I gave over” or the like, for toNt^l=, “to the jackals.” This would provide a better parallelism to <yc!a*w` of the previous colon, but it suffers from lack of major versional support.

1:5 With BHK and BHS it appears advisable to read lWbg+l! as a dittograph and so to drop the prefixed l.

The Sacrilege of the Priests

The insensitive response by His people to YHWH’s assertion that He loved them— “How have You loved us?” (v. 2)—begins to take on meaning in this section. Here the cold-hearted indifference of the priests in their service (1:6-14) and in their teaching (2:1-9) becomes most apparent, and it is this lack of love (that is, covenant commitment) on their part that prompts YHWH to remind them of His own faithfulness. How could the priests, who ought to epitomize the spirit of grateful compliance to the will of YHWH, reciprocate by being so professional and routine? So jaded had they become that they could no longer recognize the elective grace of their God even when it stared them in the face.

    A. The Sacrilege of Priestly Service (1:6-14)

      1. The Inferior Sacrifices (1:6-10)


6 “‘A son honors his father and a slave his master; if then I am a father, where is My honor, and if a master, where is My respect?, asks YHWH of hosts of you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ 7 You are offering defiled food upon My altar, yet you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ By saying (that) the table of YHWH is despised. 8 For when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is that not evil (as well)? Indeed, offer it to your governor. Will he be pleased with *you or receive you with favor?,” asks YHWH of hosts. 9 “But now petition God’s favor that He might be gracious to us. With this kind of thing in your hands, how can He receive you with favor?” asks YHWH of hosts. 10 “Would that one of you might close the doors, so that you no longer would kindle useless fires on My altar. I am not pleased with you,” says YHWH of hosts, “and I will no longer accept an offering from you.”

Exegesis and Exposition

By a series of comparisons and a fortiori arguments YHWH draws attention to the present backslidden condition of the cultus. In the everyday world, He points out, children honor their parents and slaves respect their masters. How can the priests of God, who give at least nominal assent to His sovereignty, treat Him with such utter disdain? Again, the language here is the stock vocabulary of covenant. Both “son” and “slave” are terms characteristic of suzerainty treaties, suggestive of subordination and yet mutual affection.868

Evidence of their disdain is the fact that the priests despise the name of YHWH. The verb used (zWB, buz) here fundamentally means “to hold in contempt,” that is, to view as unimportant. How unimportant may be seen in the application of the same verb to the “table” of YHWH (v. 7). The word here (/j^l=v%, sulhan) refers, in fact, to the altar, as the parallelism to j^B@z+m! (mizbeah), “altar,” makes plain. The reason for referring to the altar here as a table is, first, to continue the human analogies already begun. The implied reference to the governor’s table in v. 8 supports this. Moreover, covenant relationships also presuppose the use of tables, inasmuch as these transactions were usually cemented in ceremonies involving common meals shared by the king and his vassals with whom he had entered into covenant fellowship.869 To despise the table of YHWH is to write off the importance of the covenant and to insult the sovereign who initiated it in His grace.

Further indication of the metaphor employed to describe the relationship between YHWH and the priests (and, by extension, the people) is the use of the word “food” (<j#l#, lehem, lit. “bread”) in v. 7, rather than “sacrifice,” “offering,” or some other technical term. The point is not that the sacrifices offered to YHWH were construed as food for Him to consume, a conception at home in ancient Near Eastern religions,870 but only that the prophet is again anticipating the gifts made to the governor, gifts that consisted of food supplies for his table.

Having charged the priests with despising His altar, YHWH specifies how they have done so in response to their hypocritical query about it (v. 7). It is by presenting blind, lame, and sick sacrificial victims, animals that were ritually excluded according to the clear dictates of Torah law (Deut. 15:21). The reason for the law in the first place and for its rigid application here is most obvious. YHWH required offerings from one’s labor and resources and as sovereign desired and deserved the best. It would be easy to part with livestock that was already of little value to the owner and sanctimoniously offer it up to YHWH as a pretense of devotion. As David said of the free offer of Araunah’s threshing-floor and oxen, however, “I will not offer to YHWH my God burnt offerings which cost me nothing” (2 Sam. 24:24).

This was the spirit of sacrifice lacking in the priests of Malachi’s day. Going through the pro forma of religious activity, they missed the real point: YHWH deserves the best. In fact, He says, would even a human governor accept such miserable fare? Surely not! And if that is the case, how presumptuous to think that the God of heaven and earth can suffer such indignity. Who the particular governor may have been cannot be known because the date of the utterance is uncertain, but for the point to be made it matters not at all.

The only remedy for this lamentable state of affairs is for the guilty priests to seek the face of YHWH in repentance. Only then can His favor extend once more to them and to all the community whom they represent (v. 9). But it seems unlikely that such repentance is forthcoming. The text is difficult here, reading literally “from your hands was this” (v. 9b).871 The idea seems to be that as long as the hands of the priests continue to offer such inappropriate gifts, all overtures toward repentance will be hollow and meaningless. True repentance must be accompanied by a radically different behavior. The forgiveness of YHWH may not require the offering of proper sacrifice as a prerequisite, but it certainly demands it as a consequence.

Until and unless that comes to pass, the priests might as well desist from the charade and close the Temple doors altogether (v. 10).872 If that were done, at least the hypocritical service of the priests—an exercise worse than nothing at all—would come to an end. Altar fires that burn spurious sacrifices are not worth kindling. The smoke and ashes they produce are an offense to a holy God, a stench in His nostrils rather than a sweet savor (Isa. 65:1-5).

The rebuke here is reminiscent of that of earlier prophets who castigated their hypocritical contemporaries for confusing ritual with true worship. In a classic statement Micah asked, “How shall I come before YHWH and worship before the high God?” He then answered by a series of rhetorical questions. “Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with yearling calves? Will YHWH be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” The answer is NO. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. What does YHWH demand of you but to do justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:6-8; cf. Ps. 40:6-8 [HB 40:7-9]).

This is precisely the message of Malachi to the postexilic priests who had perverted their calling to such an extent that they no longer practiced biblical religion and no longer could distinguish between a sterile, hypocritical professionalism and a sense of genuine servanthood before God and on behalf of the community.

Additional Notes

1:8 The LXX, Vg suggest a reading based, perhaps, on Whx@r+y]h& rather than the MT ;x=r+y]h&. This makes the referent to the suffix the offering rather than the offerer, thus: “will he be pleased with it?” The more difficult MT is clearly original here. Moreover, it sustains the parallel with ;ynP*.

      2. Their Insolent Spirit (1:11-14)


11 “For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and *incense will be offered in My name as well as a pure offering everywhere; for My name will be great among the nations,” says YHWH of hosts. 12 “But you are profaning it by saying that the table of the Lord is polluted and its *fruit, that is, its food, is despicable. 13 “You also say, ‘How tiresome (it is).’ You sniff at it,” says YHWH of hosts, “and instead bring what is stolen, lame, or sick—these you bring for an offering. Should I accept this from you?” asks YHWH? 14 “Cursed be the hypocrite who has a male in his flock but vows and sacrifices something blemished to the Lord, for I am a great king,” says YHWH of hosts, “and My name is awesome among the nations.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The reason for the sacrilegious behavior of the priests of YHWH, described so graphically in vv. 6-10, becomes clear in this section—their spirit itself is sacrilegious. They betray most lucidly the principle that good works must originate in pure hearts. It is no wonder then that these priests, by their works of hypocrisy and self-centeredness, reveal an attitude commensurate with their deeds, an attitude that at best can be described as haughty and contemptuous. This is all the more deplorable in that these priests and people belong to YHWH by covenant election. They of all nations on earth ought to manifest a spirit of true piety and obedience. To the contrary, they, by comparison to the worship of God by the nations to come, give every evidence of paganism.

The reference to the worship of the nations (v. 11) is one of the most difficult concepts in the prophecy. Taken without reference to general canonical context and a cohesive biblical theology, the verse appears to teach that in the prophet’s own time there was universal recognition of YHWH or at least some high God by the nations and a corresponding purity of the worship they offered him.873 The matter is not clarified, to say the least, by the fact that there are no finite verbs in the passage to lend some kind of chronological orientation. Does the prophet indeed speak of his own generation, or is he looking to an age to come?

From all that is known in terms of salvation history and the actual facts of ancient comparative religion, there were no large elements of people outside the Jewish community who even knew of YHWH, to say nothing of worshiping Him in the manner described by Malachi.874 Even were one to maintain that proselytes from Egyptian, Mosaic times onward had joined themselves to Israel and to covenant faith, the language of our text far surpasses, both in numbers and extent, the aggregate of any such conversions. And to say that pagan nations could or did come to YHWH apart from the mediation of Israel is to say something flatly contradicting the express purpose for Israel’s very election, namely, to be a conduit through which saving grace could be transmitted and in identification with which the nations would become reconciled with God. As for the notion of some scholars that the passage teaches the possibility of true worship without reference to biblical revelation,875 nothing could be more inimical to the full witness of biblical soteriology.

This means, therefore, that the prophecy is looking to a future day when the God of Israel will be the God of the nations.876 Once more Malachi, whose overall message is grounded in the problems of his own times, moves forward to an eschatological day of salvation and, in league with his prophetic forebears (cf. Isa. 66:18-21; Jer. 3:17; 4:2; 12:14-17; and esp. Zech. 14:16-21), envisions a time of universal worship of YHWH. In a sense, then, this verse is interruptive of the flow of the passage inasmuch as the prophet is fundamentally concerned with matters immediately at hand.877 But what more arresting and motivating resort could he employ than to contrast the pagan behavior of the covenant people of the present with the devout behavior of the covenant people of the future? In another a fortiori syllogism Malachi asks, in effect, “If the pagan nations in ages to come will magnify the name of YHWH (cf. v. 5) and worship with offerings of incense and oblations, how can His own priests and people, the immediate beneficiaries of all His covenant grace, fail to do so?”878

Their failure is real, however, and in stark contrast to the ideal anticipated in the future. The nations one day will magnify and make offerings to His “name,” that is, to YHWH himself.879 The word “name” (<v@, sem) occurs three times in v. 11. Its triple use here links the passage with the double use in v. 6, suggesting a parallelism between vv. 6-8 and 11-14, with vv. 9-10 serving as a fulcrum of hope (v. 9) and frustrated hope (v. 10). As in v. 6, therefore, the people of YHWH despise and profane that name (v. 12) and declare the “table” of YHWH to be polluted (cf. v. 7). They offer up ritually disqualified animals (v. 13; cf. v. 8a), an affront to YHWH the Great King (v. 14) for, as already stated in the parallel text, they would not dare do such a thing to a mere human governor (v. 8b).880

The reference to the “name” of YHWH, though common enough as a substitute for the person of YHWH in earlier times (cf. Ex. 23:21; Deut. 12:5, 11, 21; 16:2, 6; etc.), became a virtual epithet for YHWH (<V@h^, hassem) by the end of the biblical period and increasingly so later on.881 Malachi appears to give evidence of this trend, at least in these passages and in 3:16 and 4:2 [HB 3:20]. It is a trend toward a developing emphasis on the divine transcendence, one reflected also in the avoidance by the LXX of the common anthropomorphisms of the Hebrew text.

The name of YHWH is profaned, says the Lord, by the disdain shown His table (i.e., the altar) and its “fruit” (v. 12). That is, one cannot claim to revere God while at the same time fail to worship Him in a proper manner. The cultus is not the means of achieving a saving relationship with Him, but one cannot maintain that relationship and at the same time count the cultus as of no importance. That is clearly the import of this entire oracle.

The translation “fruit” for byn] (nb) is problematic, inasmuch as the vocable occurs only here and in the Qere of Isa. 57:19 in this form. The verb bWn (nub), “to bear fruit,” is attested to in Pss. 62:11 [EB 62:10] and 92:15 [EB 92:14] as well as in Proverbs 10:31; Zech. 9:17. The noun bon (nob) occurs in the Kethib of Isa. 57:19 where it refers to the “fruit of the lips,” that is, to praise.

In our passage it must be understood as a synonym of lk#a) (okel), “food,” for it appears that okel, is an explanatory gloss of byn] to render the rare word intelligible.882 The “food” is a reference to the sacrificial offerings, just as <j#l#, (lehem), “bread,” was in v. 7. Very likely, therefore, nb is fruit in the sense of “produce,” the fruits of one’s labor as it were. In this usage it would be comparable to the common word yr]P= (per) which often has this nuance (cf. Gen. 4:3); Num. 13:20, 26,27; Deut. 7:13). All that YHWH is saying is that the wicked priests regard His altar and everything on it as of no account, as despicable.

Their utter contempt is most picturesquely portrayed by their dismissal of the whole thing—altars, incense, sacrifices, and all—as so much needless bother (v. 13). In their own words they say, “What weariness!”883 The joy has left their worship, and it has become an onerous burden. The loss of a true understanding of worship leads easily to a total disregard or even repudiation of its requirements, and so these calloused ministers of the Temple sniff at their responsibilities, considering them as beneath their dignity, and go about establishing the cult on their own terms. This is summarized by their willingness to receive and to offer in sacrifice stolen, lame, and sick animals (cf. v. 8), a gesture that elicits the strongest abhorrence from YHWH who says (literally), “Can I be pleased with it from your hands?” The same verb hx*r` (rasa) occurs in v. 8 where YHWH asks whether the governor would be pleased with an insulting gift. The argument is clear. If a mere human authority can be offended by a gift and an attitude that betrays indifference or even hostility, how can one expect the King of kings to feel other than the most abject revulsion?

Continuing with another example of ritual impropriety, YHWH singles out the individual who pretends that he will offer the male of his flock but presents instead a blemished animal (v. 14). The “male” (rk*z`, zakar) refers to the choicest animal, physically whole and well and in its prime (Ex. 12:5; 34:19; Lev. 1:3, 10; 4:23; 22:19). The hypocrite (lit., “deceiver,” ptc. of lk^n`, nakal, “to be crafty”) goes so far as to select such an animal from his flock, to make a public vow to offer it to YHWH, and then secretly to substitute for it an inferior animal. But what he does secretly among men is wide open before God. Such blasphemous duplicity brings down upon its perpetrator the divine curse, for YHWH is a Great King.

This reference to “curse” (rr^a*, arar) in juxtaposition to the epithet “Great King,” carries strong overtones of covenant language.884 In ancient Near Eastern treaties, especially in Hittite exemplars, the sovereign who imposed the treaty was called the “Great King.” Failure on the part of the vassal partner to live up to its stipulations inevitably brought the possibility of punishment, of a curse. Such a concept is pervasive in Malachi; indeed, no other prophet proportionately refers more to covenant curse (cf. 2:2; 3:9; 4:6 [HB 3:24]). To offer a blemished sacrifice is to manifest egregious insubordination to the Great King and to invite the harshest punitive stipulations of the covenant agreement.

As the completion of an inclusio to vv. 11-14,885 YHWH says that the evidence that He is a Great King lies in the fact that He is feared among the nations of the earth. This need not (as v. 11 does) suggest that the nations know Him redemptively, but only that His name or reputation has become known by His mighty deeds on behalf of His people. Examples of this are abundant in the later literature, especially in Ezekiel (25:5, 11, 14, 17; 26:6; 28:22), Daniel (2:47; 3:28-29; 4:37), and Ezra (1:1-4; 6:9-12; 7:12-16). Surely a God whose name is revered by the pagans deserves and has a right to demand that His servant people render Him appropriate homage.

Additional Notes

1:11 The presence of asyndetic hophal participles rf*q=m% and vG`m% has led most critical scholars to question the text at this point and to emend it in various ways. This is unnecessary, however, since rf*q=m% can be taken as a substantive, just as the hophal ptc. tj*v=m* is in v. 14. Therefore, the verb rf^q*, “to make sacrifices smoke” (BDB, p. 882), has, in the hophal, the idea “that which is made to smoke,” namely, incense (Lev. 6:15; 1 Chron. 6:34). As for vG`m%, it functions here as a finite verb, “to be offered.” Cf. James Swetnam, “Malachi 1:11: An Interpretation,” CBQ 31(1969): 200-201. Swetnam takes rf*q=m% in a broader sense, however, as “an oblation.” For “incense” as a correct translation see Baldwin, “Malachi 1:11 and the Worship of the Nations in the Old Testament,” p. 123.

1:12 The LXX and perhaps Tg. Neb. take obyn] as a dittograph for hz#b=n] and so eliminate it. This results in “and its food is despicable,” bringing it more in line with the parallel “the table of the Lord is polluted.” The very difficulty of MT is, however, presumptively in its favor.

    B. The Sacrilege of the Priestly Message (2:1-9)

      1. The Corrupted Vocation of the Priests (2:1-7)


1 “Now, O priests, is this commandment for you. 2 If you do not listen and take it to heart to give glory to My name,” says YHWH of hosts, “I will send the curse and will curse your blessings; indeed, I have already done so because you are not taking it to heart. 3 I am about to rebuke your offspring and will spread offal upon your faces, the (very) offal of your festivals, and *you will be taken away with it. 4 Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, (that) my covenant (might continue) to be with Levi,” says YHWH of hosts. 5 “My covenant with him was one of life and wholeness. I gave them to him to fill him with awe, and he indeed revered Me and stood in awe before My name. 6 True teaching was in his mouth, unrighteousness was not to be found on his lips. He walked with Me in wholeness and uprightness and turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of YHWH of hosts.

Exegesis and Exposition

Though much of 1:6-14 is repeated here in 2:1-9 (2:2, cf. 1:6, 14; 2:5, cf. 1:14; 2:9, cf. 1:12),886 the emphasis is completely different in that whereas the former passage concerns the cultic activity of the priests, 2:1-9 pertains to their message or teaching ministry.887 This twofold responsibility of the priest existed from the very beginning (Lev 10:11; Deut 31:9-13; 33:10), but with the gradual demise of OT prophetism the role of the priest as teacher became more and more prominent (cf. Hag. 2:11; Zech. 7:3). Ezra, of course, is the example par excellence (Ezra 7:10, 25; Neh. 8:9). Eventually, however, the priest as teacher became eclipsed by professional scribes and scholars who undertook this work.888

But in Malachi’s day the priests became indifferent to and indeed scornful of not only their duties as officiants in the cultus; they also became slack in teaching and preaching the Word of God. The prophet therefore addresses this side of their vocation as well as the other. The commandment (hw`x=m!, miswa) of which he speaks (2:1) must be the adumbration of all that follows in this section, namely, instruction about the teaching ministry of the priests. This is especially for them, because the adjurations of the previous section (1:6-14) included some comments applicable not only to the priests but also to the general population (vv. 8, 13, 14).889

The term hw`x=m!, (miswa, “commandment”) is another technical covenant word, most appropriate here, as the explicit references to the priestly covenant that follow make clear (vv. 4, 5, 8).890 Therefore, its violation in terms of not being seriously considered and of consequently denying YHWH the glory that comes in perfect obedience must elicit appropriate covenant sanction. Thus another technical term— “curse” (hr`a@m=, meera)—is introduced. The inevitable result of covenant unfaithfulness was the imposition of the curses that were always spelled out in covenant texts (cf. Lev. 26:14-39; Deut. 27:11-26; 28:15-57).891 Disobedience of the priestly covenant is no different. That, too, will be met by a curse, one so severe that it will in effect cancel out any potential blessings. The language could not be stronger: “I will curse your blessings” (v. 2b). In fact, YHWH says, He has already done so, because it is a foregone conclusion that the priests will not take to heart His miswa.892

The curse takes specific form in two ways:893 YHWH will rebuke the priestly offspring and (using a most bold and graphic metaphor) will spread offal on the priests’ faces. Just as such refuse would ordinarily be carried away for disposal, so the priests will be carried away and, as it were, cast on the rubbish heap (v. 5).

The first of these judgments depends for its meaning on the determination of two disputed words, that translated “offspring” and that rendered “rebuke.”894 In place of “offspring” (ur^z#, zera`, lit. “seed”) some ancient versions, including the LXX and Vulg. suggest “arm,” reflecting the Hebrew u^orz+ (zeroa`). Admittedly this provides good balance to “face” in the next line, but hardly makes sense with “rebuke.” This leads to a further expedient of reading u^d@)G{ (goer), “cutting off,” for MT ru@G{ (godea`), “rebuking.” One could then understand the line as follows: “I am about to cut off your arm and will spread offal on your faces.” Even if “offspring” be retained, the verb “cut off” would make excellent sense here.

Not a single ancient MSS or version attests godea` here, however. This ipso facto virtually rules it out of consideration. The LXX has ajforivzw (aphorizo), “take away,” perhaps reflecting a vorlage ur^G` (gara`). This verb, however, is inappropriate for either arm or seed, for the normal idiom is “cut off” in either case. As for “arm,” the LXX has ton wmon (ton omon), “shoulder,” which, though not a normal translation of zeroa` (“arm”), may be close enough.

The solution is to let the context determine the matter. The previous verse (v. 2) had said that YHWH would “send the curse” and “curse the blessings.” This double threat most likely finds its double fulfillment in v. 3, so that the sending (i.e., uttering) of the curse is tantamount to the word of rebuke and the cursing of the blessings is expressed in the offal upon the faces.

A perusal of the curse sections of biblical covenant texts provides plenty of examples of the curse finding expression in the judgment of the offspring of covenant violators (Deut. 28:18, 32, 41, 53, 55, 57). It is not doing violence to these passages to suggest that the rebuke of offspring is an appropriate way to describe this kind of a curse and its effects.895 They are rebuked even though they may be innocent of collaboration with the infidelity of their parents, a point made in the Decalogue itself (Ex. 20:5).

The “cursing of the blessings” as “covering the face with offal” is not to be found in biblical curse texts because the setting here in Malachi is the cult and ministry in the cult by the priests. The principle of blessing being supplanted by curse is well established in such passages apart from specific references to priests (Deut. 28:12-15, 63). The blessing of the priest was the sheer privilege of handling the holy things as the mediator between God and His people. The curse, then, would be disqualification from these ministries. In the coarsest language possible YHWH, clearly in metaphorical imagery, epitomizes the state of disqualification as the smearing of the priests’ faces with offal. The matter described here (vrP#, peres) is the undigested contents of the stomach and intestines, something so loathsome and impure it must be carried outside the camp to be burned (Ex. 29:14; Lev. 4:11-12; 8:17; Num. 19:5). For this to be spread over the face of the priest rather than to be carried away from the holy precincts and consumed by fire was to constitute the most serious breach of ritual purity imaginable.896 The blessing of offering sacrifice would thereby be turned into an indescribable curse.

One thinks of Joshua the high priest who, in a night vision of Zechariah, appeared in “filthy” garments, that is, garments covered with excrement (Zech. 3:3-4). Though the word there (ha^x)), soa) is different from the one in Malachi, the imagery is exactly the same. Joshua was ritually defiled and needed to have his garments changed before he could continue his priestly ministry. The priests to whom Malachi is speaking will also need to be purified. Otherwise they, like the refuse, will be taken away and disposed of “outside the camp” (v. 3).

Appealing once more to the “commandment” (v. 4; cf. v. 1), YHWH informs the priests that the curse they can expect for its violation will testify that YHWH Himself has brought about its dire consequences, but that He has done so for a redemptive purpose—that the priestly covenant may continue. That covenant he describes as the covenant with Levi. Though the expression “covenant with Levi” occurs nowhere else in the Bible, Jeremiah refers to a covenant with the Levites (Jer. 33:21-22), and there is a reference in Num. 25:10-13 to a “covenant of peace” and the “covenant of an everlasting priesthood” made with Phinehas, grandson of Aaron and eventual high priest of Israel. Since Aaron and all his descent were offspring of Levi (Ex. 6:16-20), it is not inappropriate that the covenant with Phinehas could also be called the covenant with Levi.897

In addition, of course, Levi was set apart from the beginning to serve as a priestly tribe. This is clear from the blessing of Moses on the tribe (Deut. 33:8-11) in which Moses refers to Levi’s exploits in the wilderness on behalf of YHWH’s honor. The first of these followed the apostasy of the golden calf (Ex. 32:25-29). When Moses asked who was any longer on the side of YHWH, the Levites stepped forward, wielded their swords of divine vengeance against their rebel brothers, and proved their fidelity. Another example is that alluded to above when Phinehas the priest slew a man of Israel who was engaged in sexual and spiritual immorality with a woman of Midian at Peor. “He was zealous for His God,” says Moses, “and made atonement for the children of Israel” (Num. 25:13).

It seems evident that Mal. 2:4-6 is referring to these incidents, especially the latter, when it speaks of the covenant with Levi. That it includes the priests and is not, therefore, limited to the Levites as a sub-priestly class, is clear from vv. 7-8 where the priests are explicitly included within that covenant. In order, therefore, to understand the full thrust of the message here in Malachi, it is necessary to look at least briefly at the account in Numbers.

When Phinehas became aware of the pagan festivities into which some of the people had entered, he intervened in the manner described with the result that the plague that YHWH had already launched against the people was suspended (Num. 25:9). For this bold initiative, YHWH commended the priest, attributing to him the interdiction of divine wrath and, consequently, the salvation of the nation. For this, YHWH said, he would make with Phinehas a “covenant of peace” (v. 12; cf. Isa. 54:10; Ezek. 34:25; 37:2b), that is, “the covenant of an everlasting priesthood” (v. 13).

It is the word “peace” (<olv*, salom) that links the narrative in Numbers directly with our Malachi text (Mal. 2:5). Phinehas, representative of all the Levites, became the recipient of YHWH’s life and peace because of his zeal for YHWH’s name. But there was the expectation of reciprocation, not only on the part of Phinehas but by his priestly descendants after him. That would take form in the fear and awe of the priests who stood before YHWH in service. This is precisely what the priests whom Malachi addressed were lacking (cf. 1:6; 2:2), and its absence explained the curse that had already begun to fall upon them.

Evidence of Phinehas’s loyal compliance to the covenant was the fact that “true teaching was in his mouth, unrighteousness was not to be found on his lips,” and “he walked with [YHWH] in wholeness and uprightness and turned many from iniquity” (v. 7). Though little is known of Phinehas after the Baal of Peor incident (cf. Num. 31:6; Josh. 22:13-34), he is celebrated in the epic poetry of Israel as the one who “stood up and executed judgment; and so the plague was stayed. And that was reckoned to him for righteousness, to all generations forever” (Ps. 106:30-31).

Phinehas thus provided a paradigm of priestly character and behavior. He demonstrated in his own life a model of what it meant to be a faithful man of God. From such a sterling example a standard for all priests has been set and, in almost proverbial language, YHWH outlines His expectation for all those successors of Levi and Phinehas who serve Him with such exalted privilege. They should guard knowledge and impart the instruction of YHWH, for the priest is nothing less than the very messenger (Ea*l=m^, malak; cf. the name of Malachi) of YHWH (v. 7).898 This is the ideal, indeed, the expectation that accompanies the covenant with Levi. Unfortunately Malachi’s own priestly contemporaries had fallen very much short of the ideal and therefore were subject to the curse that inevitably follows any kind of covenant disloyalty.

Additional Notes

2:3 The MT reads lit. “he will carry you unto it,” referring no doubt to the pile of refuse outside the camp that would be destroyed by fire. The LXX and Syr. appear to favor a reading “I will carry you away from beside me.” This may clarify the elliptical MT but at the expense of robbing it of the strong impact that is clearly intended.

      2. The Covenant Violation of the Priests (2:8-9)


8 “You, however, have turned from the way. You have caused many to stumble in the law; you have corrupted the covenant with Levi,” says YHWH of hosts. 9 “Therefore, I have made you despised and abased before all people to the degree that you are not keeping My ways and are showing partiality in (your) instruction.”

Exegesis and Exposition

Having outlined the characteristics of righteous and faithful priests by recounting the exploits of the Levites and Phinehas, YHWH contrasts them with the present generation of priests. They have turned aside from the way, that is, the path to which the priest must adhere by virtue of his holy vocation. Moreover, far from imparting true instruction (cf. v. 6), indeed, from serving as a resource to whom men could appeal for such instruction (v. 7), these priests, by their teachings, erected roadblocks in the way of those seeking truth.

The definite article on hr`oT (tora), “instruction,” suggests that here it is not just any teaching in general but indeed the instruction, namely, the Torah, the Law of Moses. The defection of the priests is all the more serious, then, for they are actually creating obstacles to the people’s access to the Word of God itself. To cause the people to “stumble in the Torah” is to so mislead them in its meaning that they fail to understand and keep its requirements. There can be no more serious indictment against the man of God. By this act of dereliction (and, no doubt, others unnamed) the priests have corrupted the Levitical covenant. This being the case, they must be prepared to accept the consequences, the imposition of the sanctions of the covenant. This, in fact, had already begun to transpire as vv. 2-3 make clear. But even these attitudes and acts of impiety and gross miscarriage of priestly responsibility had not annulled the priestly covenant itself. Guilty individuals in the office of priest might drift so far as to be disqualified and even put to death (Lev. 10:1-3), but the institution of priesthood itself would stand, because God had established it as an everlasting ministry. This has already been seen in the promise to Phinehas (Num. 25:13), and Jeremiah affirms the same when he says, “David will never lack for a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel, nor shall the priests the Levites lack for a man before Me to offer burnt-offerings, to burn grain-offerings, and to make sacrifice continually” (Jer. 33:17-18).899

Ezekiel, who preceded Malachi by a century or more, confronted a disobedient priesthood in his own day, and though he intimates that such evil ministers may expect divine discipline (Ezek. 44:10), they nevertheless will continue to have a role in the Temple cultus of the millennial kingdom (v. 11). In language that may have inspired Malachi, Ezekiel says that these priests “became a stumbling-block of iniquity” and so must bear their iniquity, that is, its penalty (v. 12). Furthermore, they would play a subservient role to the Zadokite priests who had proved through the years their steadfastness and godliness (vv. 13-15).900 The point to be stressed here, however, is that the Levitical covenant still stood, for it is one that God himself inaugurated and to which He committed Himself.

To support the word of Ezekiel about the coming judgment of the faithless priests, Malachi says that already YHWH has made them to be despised and abased before the people. In a measure-to-measure application of justice he says that the priests have suffered these humiliations in proportion to the extent to which they strayed from the pathway and according to how much they created impediments to the people who sought instruction at their mouths (v. 9). The office of priest or Levite was a high and holy calling, one that should have instilled a feeling of awe and respect on the part of the people who enjoyed its intercessory benefits. For the holders of those offices, then, to disgrace themselves to the degree that they were depreciated in the eyes of the community was scandalous, for with the disgrace of the man there was an inevitable disdain for the office as well. There is little wonder that Malachi was sent to the priests with such a harsh word of condemnation.

The Rebellion of the People (2:10-16)

Having dealt with the issue of a corrupt priesthood, Malachi turns next to the general population. Even though their spiritual leaders may have failed them, the people must shoulder the responsibility for their own sinfulness as a nation and as individuals.

    A. The Disruption of the Covenant (2:10-13)


10 Do we not all have one father? Did not one God create us? Why do we act treacherously to one another, thus profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has acted treacherously, and abomination has been committed in Israel and Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the holy (thing) of YHWH that He loves and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May YHWH cut off to the (last) man anyone who does this, him who is *awake and him who answers, from the tents of Jacob, as well as him who presents an offering to YHWH of hosts. 13 For this again you do: You cover the altar of YHWH with tears, with weeping and groaning, because He no longer pays heed to the offering nor accepts it favorably from your hands.

Exegesis and Exposition

In strongly covenant terms Malachi urges the people to recognize their oneness, their solidarity as a chosen nation. This is evident, first of all, in the fact that they all have a common father, God himself (v. 10).901 Though “father” (ba*, ab) is not inherently a covenant term, it is so used here, as the reference to covenant at the end of v. 10 makes clear. This precludes any possibility that the prophet is advocating the modern notion of the universal fatherhood of God. The idea of covenant fatherhood first originates in the Exodus narrative where YHWH commands Moses to return to Pharaoh with the message, “Israel is My son, My first born … let My son go that he may serve Me” (Ex. 4:22-23). Isaiah explicitly refers to YHWH as the father of Israel: “You, O YHWH, are our father, our redeemer from of old is Your name” (Isa. 63:16). Here there is an obvious connection between YHWH as father and His redemption of Israel.

Malachi goes on, however, to describe YHWH as the Creator of His people in common. Again Isaiah provides the same image and, in fact, juxtaposes the notions of father and Creator exactly as does Malachi.902 “O YHWH,” he says, “You are our father; we are the clay, and You our potter. We all are the work of Your hand” (Isa. 64:8). Both prophets agree, then, that the people of YHWH are His uniquely in that He both created and redeemed them, making them His chosen son. Jeremiah adds his word, for the prophet records YHWH’s asseveration, “I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn” (Jer. 31:9). It is well known, of course, that the Jeremiah passage is embedded in an undisputed covenant context.

Against that background Malachi’s denunciatory query takes on heightened poignancy. If the people of Judah were one, elected and redeemed by one God who deigned to be their common Father, how could they abuse one another as they did? Such abuse, he says, constituted a most serious breach of the “covenant of the fathers,” an obvious reference in context to the Sinaitic covenant.903 One should recall that the quintessence of that covenant was to love YHWH with all the heart, soul, and mind (Deut. 6:4-5) and to love one’s fellow as himself (Lev. 19:18; cf. Luke 10:27). The covenant could become profaned as much by violating the second part as by violating the first.

The prophet is not dealing in generalities here, as the continuation of his accusation shows. Judah—and, indeed, Israel and Jerusalem as well—has dealt treacherously as a sacred community by undertaking action whose net result would lead to the disintegration of the people as an elect nation more quickly and surely than anything else she could do, namely, by intermarriage with the pagans.904

The reference to Israel and Jerusalem as well as Judah is to underscore the pervasiveness of this abhorrent practice.905 Zechariah used the same formula to describe the completeness of the persecution and scattering of the chosen nation by the four horns in his second vision (Zech. 1:19). As a clich, then, the statement has nothing to say one way or the other about the historical existence of Israel in Malachi’s own day. The point is that the whole nation has been treacherous in marrying outside the strict parameters of the covenant stipulations.

The Torah texts are replete with prohibitions against this practice (Ex. 34:15-16; Deut. 7:3; cf. Josh. 23:12), and these same passages point out the dire consequences that follow such compromise. Nevertheless, intermarriage with pagans was persistently undertaken even at the highest levels of Israelite society, as the sordid record of Solomon in this respect attests (1 Kings 11:1-8). The reason for enjoining against it was not any sense of ethnic or racial superiority but because by elective design YHWH had chosen one man, Abraham, through whom He would mediate His saving work to the world. The channel thus must be limited to the offspring of Abraham, a limitation that was synonymous with Israel. The issue, then, was theological and not biological, for whenever illicit marriage was condoned there was an accompanying moral and spiritual defection, a predictable drift toward idolatry. A glance at the passages cited above will make crystal clear this connection between physical, illicit intermarriage and spiritual declension.

As we pointed out in the Introduction, Malachi was not alone among postexilic spokesmen in dealing with this problem. It was the single biggest social and religious concern of the great priestly scribe Ezra. He no sooner arrived in Jerusalem in 458 B.C., possibly a decade or so after Malachi’s provenience, than he was met by a delegation of leaders who complained that the people, including the priests and Levites, had not separated themselves from surrounding neighbors but had, to the contrary, entered into marriage with them. As they put it, “The holy seed have mingled themselves with the peoples of the lands” (Ezra 9:2). Ezra was so distraught with this information that he fell upon his face in a prayer of confession and asked whether the nation was about to repeat the sins of their preexilic fathers by joining in affinity with “the people that do these abominations” (9:14).906

His intercession provoked a spirit of repentance among the guilty. They put themselves at Ezra’s disposal to do what he thought best (10:1-4). His counsel, after much deliberation and soul-searching, was that they must divorce these foreigners whom they had married (10:11-12), something they complied with at once (v. 17). There is no clear biblical precedent for Ezra’s edict, so one must assume either that he used his own best judgment, perhaps even wrongly, or that he ruled as a “second Moses,” one who enjoyed divine revelation and sanction for his policy.907

Before this is pursued, it is necessary to see how the same problem was handled by Nehemiah. He arrived in Judah thirteen years after Ezra to find that whatever reforms Ezra had achieved had failed to find solid anchorage, for intermarriage once more became a leading issue, especially in the latter part of his governorship. At the conclusion of his prayer of covenant renewal, Nehemiah and the people resolved to adhere faithfully to YHWH’s covenant expectations, including the injunction against mixed marriage (Neh. 10:30). This took place early in his tenure (2:1; cf. 6:15; 9:1), and the pledge to refrain from such marriage seems to suggest that it had not been resumed since the Ezra reforms. The occasion for its resumption may have been Nehemiah’s return to Susa in 432, for when he came back from there later on, he found a wholesale abandonment of the covenant pledge and the renewal of mixed marriages (Neh. 13:23-24).

The remedy this time was not as severe as that of Ezra. Nehemiah did not command divorce but issued a stern warning about what would happen were the practice to continue (v. 13). It was this very sin, he reminded them, that brought about Solomon’s downfall (v. 14). Whether Nehemiah refrained from following Ezra’s policy because he considered it nonauthoritative or unworkable or neither cannot be known. It may be that he was more persuaded by the message of Malachi than the practice of Ezra, a message that appears to forbid divorce at all (Mal. 2:16). This will be considered presently.

It is necessary first to return to Malachi 2:11 where the prophet makes clear that the abomination he has in mind is that of mixed marriage. His use of the word “abomination” (hb*u@oT, to`eba) is deliberate, for this frequently is the term used to describe such covenant breach (1 Kings 11:5, 7), especially by Ezra (9:1, 11, 14). The marriage itself, Malachi says, is to the “daughter of a foreign god.” This metonymy does not imply something like sacred prostitution but only that Jewish men were marrying women who themselves worshiped pagan deities. In putting it this way, however, the prophet graphically and cleverly unites these prohibited marriages with one of the principal reasons for their impropriety, namely, that they tend to idolatry.908 Marriage to a pagan spouse is tantamount to the embracing of a pagan god.

In v. 11 is the difficult phrase literally to be rendered “for Judah (has) profaned the holiness of YHWH which He loved,” must be considered. The word “holiness” (vd#q), qodes) is an abstract masculine noun with the base meaning “apartness” or the like. Here it functions as an adjective and clearly refers to someone or something that is holy to YHWH, an object of His love. That it is YHWH who is the subject of “loved” is apparent from the proximity of the divine name to the relative clause containing the verb.

As for the thing loved, its identity must be determined by its relationship to the rest of the line in which it is mentioned.909 Though the language is not poetic, v. 11 can be viewed as containing essentially synonymous ideas in a more or less parallel arrangement:

Judah has profaned the holy thing of YHWH that He loves,
and has married the daughter of a foreign god.

Here Judah is viewed as the collective of individuals who are guilty of the profanation. Whatever they have done must be set opposite the second line, that is, the marriage to a devotee of a pagan god. Since such marriage is a violation of the Mosaic covenant, it follows that the holy thing that has been profaned is the covenant itself or at least that statute that forbids such illicit relationships. Confirmation of this interpretation may be found in a close look now at all of v. 11, which consists of four ideas in what might be called “alternating parallelism,” viz:

    A Judah has acted treacherously

      B Abomination has been committed in Israel

    A Judah has profaned the holy thing of YHWH

      B (Judah) has married the daughter of a foreign god.

Verse 10 has already shown conclusively that to act treacherously (dG~b=n], nibgad)910 is to profane (lL@j^, hallel) the covenant. Now v. 11 says that Judah has acted treacherously (hd*g+B*, bageda) and has profaned (lL@j!, hillel) the holy thing of YHWH. It is reasonable to conclude that to act treacherously here means to profane or “secularize” the covenant so that it is eviscerated of its authority.

Having contemplated the sins of his people, especially their blatant disregard of the covenant prohibitions against mixed marriage, Malachi utters an imprecative urging YHWH to cut off from the covenant community any who are guilty of the charges he has leveled. Excommunication from covenant faith and fellowship is clearly in mind as the expression “from the tents of Jacob” implies (v. 12). This harks back to Israel’s nomadic days in the wilderness, for it was then and there that such a penalty was first promulgated and invoked (cf. Ex. 12:15, 19, 31:14; Lev. 7:20, 21, 25, 27; 19:8; 20:18; 22:3; Num. 9:13; 15:31; 19:13, 20; etc.).

The cryptic phrase “him who is awake and him who answers” is patently an idiom, but one whose original meaning is uncertain. It appears to be a merism expressing totality. That is, every last man will be cut off, from him who is already awake to him who responds to the wakeup call. It may mean something like the awake and the asleep, who together make up all of mankind (cf. a similar kind of figure, “the quick and the dead”).911 The totality in mind includes even those who present offerings to YHWH (v. 12b), but they are specifically defined as hypocritical worshipers in v. 13. That is, even though covenant breakers make their pious pilgrimages to the sacrificial altar, they will be cut off, for their very behavior betrays the insincerity of their religious exercises.

The prophet describes this show of devotion in the cynical and grandiose terms of covering the altar with tears and of loud weeping and groaning. Coming in vain to present their offerings, these infidels, in their frustration at having their shallow pretenses exposed, exhibit the strongest emotion. They fail to see that YHWH’s displeasure and lack of positive response are not because offerings are not being made but because they are offered by people who have broken covenant with Him and who refuse to do anything about it. Just as YHWH had not “received with favor” (hx#r+a# aO, loerse) the offerings of the priests (1:10), so now He will not “receive with favor” (/oxr` tj^q^l*, laqahat rason) the offerings of the people.

Additional Notes

2:12 For ru@, “awake,” the LXX reads e{w" (= du^), “unto,” “until.” The resulting idea is “until he is humbled,” taking hn`u*^ as “to be humble” rather than “to answer.” Syr. and Tg. Neb. take the phrase as “his son and his son’s son” whereas Vg. understands it as referring to teacher and pupil. BHS proposes du@, “witness,” to be rendered here perhaps as “he who witnesses and he who answers,” a reading that, as Richard D. Patterson (by private communication) notes, ties in with dyu!h@ in v. 14. The MT, by its very difficulty, appears to be correct and to suggest a merism of totality.

    B. The Illustration of the Covenant (2:14-16)


14 Yet you ask, “Why?” Because YHWH has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth against whom you have acted treacherously, though she is your companion and wife by covenant. 15 No one does (this) who has (even) a remnant of the Spirit in him. What (did) that one (do) when seeking offspring of God? Be attentive then to your (own) spirit, for one should not be *treacherous to the wife of your youth. 16 *”I hate divorce,” says YHWH, God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with violence,” says YHWH of hosts. “Take heed therefore to your spirit, and do not be treacherous.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The reason for YHWH’s rejection of the offerings mentioned in v. 13 is the reverse side of the coin introduced in vv. 10-11—the divorce of their wives by the men of Judah. We call this the reverse side of the coin, for the obverse was their marriage to the daughters of foreign gods. The impression one gets is that many had divorced their Jewish wives precisely in order to marry pagans. This, Malachi says, is to act treacherously (v. 14). The same verb (dg~B*, bagad) has been used several times now by the prophet, and a careful analysis of its use clarifies the whole issue that concerned the prophet here. In v. 10, as already noted, treachery was synonymous with breaking the covenant, in this case the stipulations of the Mosaic covenant prohibiting intermarriage with the heathen nations. Verse 11 cements this connection by associating treachery with the profanation of the holy (covenant) that YHWH loves. Treachery in v. 14, therefore, must also relate to covenant violation, and indeed it does as v. 16 puts beyond doubt. This time, however, the covenant is not that of Moses but the marriage covenant that bound husband and wife together.

Such a covenant, though not attested formally in the OT,912 is a legally binding arrangement as YHWH’s role as witness intimates. For the Jew to desert his wife and to marry another, particularly a foreigner, is not only morally odious but legally prohibitive. It is because YHWH witnessed the pledges of mutual loyalty between husband and wife that He is able now to speak of its violation and to explain it as the cause for His rejection of hypocritical gestures of worship. The wife of one’s youth, the prophet goes on to say, is not someone lightly to be put aside but is indeed a “companion,” a “consort” (tr#j&, haberet) inextricably linked to her husband by a covenant pledge.913

The monstrous evil of such a course of action is illustrated in v. 15, a difficult passage. The first clause (lit., “and not one has done, and a remnant of the Spirit to him”) appears to introduce a proverbial truth to the effect that the behavior of these wicked men who reject their wives of a lifetime would never be true of one who has even a little part of God’s Spirit within him.914 Pre-Christian theology may not allow this to refer to a personal Holy Spirit in a full Trinitarian sense, but this is not necessary anyway. All that is being affirmed is that a godly man would never do what these men have done

As an example the prophet turns obliquely to Abraham, for “the one” who was “seeking offspring of God” quite clearly refers to the patriarch.915 What he did in his original efforts to secure offspring is not at all commendable, as the Genesis narrative reveals. Rather than wait for the promise of YHWH to come to pass in a monogamous relationship with Sarah, Abraham instead took Hagar as surrogate and by her bore Ishmael (Gen. 16:1-6). The result, of course, was disastrous.

Though the analogy is not perfect, inasmuch as Abraham did not in fact divorce Sarah and the matter of idolatry was not at issue, it is close enough for Malachi to make the point that such an approach by even a godly patriarch was an act of covenant unfaithfulness. Sarah deserved better even though she was party to the illicit arrangement and, in fact, first entertained the idea. And Abraham’s treachery vis vis Sarah did not end there, for on two other occasions he had at least partially lied about her, alleging her to be his sister rather than his wife (Gen. 12:11-20; 20:2-18).

No wonder Malachi sees in Abraham a fit model of the principle he is trying to establish. Do not emulate the great ancestor, he says, but instead “be attentive to your own spirit” lest you commit a similar sin against your wife. Then, in the event there be any lingering doubt as to the sin in question, YHWH Himself speaks forth: “I hate divorce” (v. 16). And with the divorce He hates the one who covers his garments with the violence that attends the breakup of the marriage. The seriousness with which YHWH views the matter is reinforced by a repetition of the exhortation already given in v. 15b: “take heed therefore to your spirit and do not be treacherous” (v. 16b).916

Two aspects of v. 16 must be addressed separately, that of the prohibition of divorce in light of the policies of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the enigmatic reference to covering the garment with violence. As noted earlier Ezra, when confronted with the issue of mixed marriages, unequivocally called upon his fellow Jews who had entered such relationships to sever them at once. This they did without recorded protest (Ezra 9-10). Nehemiah, dealing with a recurrence of the problem, advised only that such practice be avoided in the future. There is no hint that he commended divorce at all.

These varying attitudes toward divorce (Malachi anti; Ezra pro; Nehemiah non-committal?) have figured in the whole problem of the chronological order of the figures who espoused these various viewpoints. It is impossible here to reopen that entire conundrum, especially as regards the Ezra-Nehemiah priority, but a few comments at least may be helpful. First, it is frequently asserted that because Ezra was a figure of such towering prominence and influence, a reputation sustained by both Scripture and tradition, his rulings must be seen as authoritative for the community. If this is the case, the only way to account for the positions taken by both Malachi and Nehemiah is to postulate that Ezra was last in succession. Having seen the failure of the accommodating policies of Malachi and Nehemiah, he adopted a hardline approach which would forever end the problem by divorce.917

Malachi’s attitude seems most adamant of all against divorce, even compared to Nehemiah, so Malachi, it appears, preceded Nehemiah. The prophet had stated flatly that YHWH hates divorce. Encouraged by this and perverting it to their own benefit, those who had undertaken mixed marriages would have an excuse not to break them off, for if YHWH hates divorce, there is little they can do to disentangle themselves from their admittedly illicit relationships. Nehemiah, seeing this cynical reaction to the prophet, dared not countermand his oracular word, but he would at least command that the people cease and desist from such behavior in the future. Ezra, by virtue of his priestly authority and prestige, could, especially after enough time had elapsed, issue a mandate that divorce was not only possible under such circumstances but must be actively prosecuted, Malachi’s word to the contrary notwithstanding.918

This scenario makes very good sense provided one is willing to make a concession or two, primarily in the area of Malachi’s prophetic authority and the possibility of its contravention by the priestly authority of Ezra.919 But this is an enormous concession, for it pits two men of God in direct conflict and supposes that the one can overturn the teaching of the other without jeopardizing the credibility of either or, worse still, of YHWH who presumably inspired each to his own course of action. Such a possibility exists, of course, if one can tolerate an evolutionary understanding of the history of Israel’s religion. But the scholar who is persuaded that both Malachi and Ezra reflect the mind and will of God cannot dispose of the problem that easily.

The answer appears not to lie in the direction of rearranging the order of the canonical witnesses. The tradition of the Ezra-Nehemiah sequence is too well established to be easily overthrown and the priority of Malachi to both, as has been argued (pp. 377-78), most defensible. Thus Malachi abjures divorce, Ezra is its champion, and Nehemiah neither advocates it nor speaks out against it. What is to be made of this?

What critical scholars especially appear to have overlooked is that Malachi and Ezra are addressing two totally different kinds of marriage and divorce. Malachi, in the course of chastising his brethren for the mixed marriages, implies that these marriages have come about at the cost of divorcing their own Jewish wives. It is this divorce that prompts YHWH to say, “I hate divorce.” One cannot deduce from this statement that a universal principle is being articulated. To the contrary, the word of YHWH here is limited to the horrible travesty of covenant-breaking expressed by the breakup of Jewish marriages. YHWH has no word here beyond that. Ezra, on the other hand, speaks not specifically to the problem of Jewish divorce that made illicit intermarriage possible, but to that mixed marriage itself. His thrust is exclusively that those who have entered those kinds of marriages must terminate them. There is thus no real contradiction at all. YHWH hates divorce between His covenant people but, in Ezra’s situation at least, demands it when it involves a bonding between His people and the pagan world.920

One cannot extrapolate from Ezra’s edict a principle for Christian or even general behavior regarding marriage and divorce.921 The OT offers no legislation about the matter where believer and unbeliever are linked in marriage, and the NT, if anything, commends the notion that though such marriages are not to be undertaken in the first place (2 Cor. 6:14-18), once effected they should not be ended by divorce (1 Cor. 7:12-17). “From the beginning,” Jesus said, “[divorce] was not so” (Matt. 19:3-9). Ezra’s action was to meet a peculiar exigency in a crucial era in the life of the postexilic community. To argue normative policy from it is to go far beyond the evidence of a comprehensive biblical theology.

As for “him who covers his garment with violence” (v. 16a ), its connection to the condemnation of divorce locates its meaning within that framework. The language is clearly figurative, probably a metonymy of effect for cause, built in turn on a metaphor. The metaphor “garment” pertains to the outside appearance for, to quote the modern aphorism, “the clothes make the man.” It is true that externals often betray internals either by giving unwarranted credibility to situations that do not deserve it or, conversely, by exposing innate corruption for what it is. The divorce of God’s people is tantamount to their wearing garments that expose their perfidy for all to see.

The metonymy speaks of the condition brought about by the violence of divorce. They do not wear garments covered by violence but, as it were, violence has clothed them with garments that advertise to society that they have broken covenant with the wives of their youth. Divorce is always violent and always leaves its emotional and spiritual scars.922 The existence of divorce and the presence of those responsible for it are abhorrent in the eyes of YHWH—thus He says in His own words.

Additional Notes

2:15 For the MT dG{b=y], “one should (not) be treacherous,” most ancient versions read dG{b=T!, “you should (not) be treacherous.” This seems to be a reasonable effort at grammatical harmony but an unnecessary resort given the penchant of Hebrew not to insist on such leveling, especially where suffixes are concerned.

2:16 One might expect, with the majority of scholars, to find yt!an}c*, “I hate,” for MT “he hates,” and thus my translation renders it. However, again one must allow for fluidity in such grammatical forms, especially in the absence of MSS and versions to the contrary. Moreover, the phrase in question could be taken as an indirect, and not direct, quotation. Malachi would then be the speaker: “YHWH the God of Israel says that He hates divorce,” etc. See David Clyde Jones, “A Note on the LXX of Malachi 2:16,” JBL 109 (1990):683-85.

Resistance to YHWH
(2:17-3:21 [EB 4:3])

To this point the thrust of Malachi’s message has been twofold. He has condemned the priests of Judah for trivializing the cult both by their illicit practice and their indifferent attitude. And he has scolded the population at large for their failure to adhere to YHWH’s covenant, particularly in the realm of mixed marriage and illegal divorce. Now his focus becomes more expanded as he addresses a number of seemingly miscellaneous matters that may fall under the general umbrella of resistance to YHWH. There is clearly a pattern of presentation consisting of three causes of the people’s resistance—self-deceit (2:17-3:5), selfishness (3:6-12), and self-sufficiency (3:13-21 [EB 4:3])—each of which embraces a statement of the problem and a concomitant promise of either weal or woe.923

    A. Resistance through Self-deceit (2:17-3:5)

      1. The Problem (2:17)


17 You have wearied YHWH with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied Him?” Inasmuch as you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of YHWH, and He delights in them,” or, “Where is the God of justice?”

Exegesis and Exposition

In the present section, which deals with self-deceit, the problem occurs in 2:17 and the promise in 3:1-5. In anthropomorphic language Malachi says that YHWH is worn out from the words of the people, words that betray an abysmal self-deception. To carry out his disputation schema the prophet contrives a series of interrogations and responses in which YHWH’s accusation is invariably met with a questioning response, “How have we done thus and so?” This in turn elicits a specification of the charges in such unambiguous speech that the accused themselves are rendered speechless.

Following the charge that the people have wearied YHWH and their predictable but hypocritical “How?”, the prophet lists two specifications: (1) the people claim that those who do evil are good in YHWH’s opinion, and (2) they allege that the God of justice is nowhere to be found. The first indictment shows a topsy-turvy sense of morals and ethics in which criteria of right and wrong are so perverted as to be absolutely in reverse: they call good evil and evil good. Isaiah knew of such distorted perspective in his own day and railed against it. “Woe to them who call evil good, and good evil,” he said, and “who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Woe to them who are wise in their own opinion, and prudent in their own sight” (Isa. 5:20-21). Such a view of God as an indulgent, nondiscriminating being who winks at iniquity is, of course, a totally sub-biblical concept.

The second indictment—that Judah has lost sight of a God of justice—is an outgrowth of the first. The people had obviously been sinning against God, as Malachi’s message has consistently affirmed. The fact that they had done so with a minimum of negative reaction had lulled them into a spirit of serene self-deception about the principle of sin and punishment. If they have lived as they had and had been essentially none the worse for it, can there be a God of justice? This attitude and these words have made Him weary, so YHWH replies with a promise (3:1-5).

      2. The Promise (3:1-5)


1 “Behold, I am about to send My messenger, who will make the way clear before Me. Indeed, the Lord whom you are seeking will suddenly come to His Temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight is coming,” says YHWH of hosts. 2 “Who can bear up under the day of His coming? Who can keep standing when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like a washerman’s soap. 3 He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver and will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will offer YHWH a righteous offering. 4 And the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to YHWH as in former days, as in years of old. 5 I will come to you in judgment and will be a speedy witness against the sorcerers, the adulterers, those who swear falsely, those who cheat the wage-earner of wages, (who oppress) the widow and orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says YHWH of hosts.

Exegesis and Exposition

In wake of the problem expressed in 2:17 there now follows a promise that addresses both aspects of the people’s grand self-delusion. That promise is that YHWH is about to send (so the futur instans924 use of the participle j^l@v) [soleah]) His messenger. This one will prepare the way for the coming of YHWH Himself.

The construction of v. 1 is of interest both as a literary device and as a clue to its meaning. The word “messenger” (Ea*l=m^, malak) occurs twice, once at the beginning of the verse and again near the end. Although the word is not exegetically significant, perhaps one should note in passing that the noun in its first occurrence is with the pronomial suffix “my,” yk!a*l=m^, that is, malak or Malachi. As suggested in the Introduction, this may be a play on the name of the prophet himself, or it may be purely coincidental. More to the point, the double use of the term suggests that the same messenger is in view throughout the passage. Enveloped within the double occurrence is the reference to YHWH, here described with the epithet /oda*h* (haadon), “the Lord.” Thus the messenger of YHWH comes to prepare the way for Adon, a messenger further identified as the “messenger of the covenant.”925

One immediately thinks of a similar promise in Isaiah 40:3-5. There a voice proclaims, “Prepare in the wilderness the way of YHWH.” The verb translated “prepare” there (hn`P*, pana) is the very one we translate “make (the way) clear” here in Malachi. As the parallel in Isaiah 40:3b makes evident, to “make clear” is to “make smooth” or “level.” In both Isaiah and Malachi this is to be taken metaphorically to speak of the removal of obstacles to His coming.926

Whereas Isaiah refers to the Lord as YHWH, Malachi speaks of him as Adon. Even though one ought not to exaggerate the difference in name choice, it may well be that Isaiah is focusing on the covenant name inasmuch as the historical and eschatological thrust of this entire section of the book (esp. chaps. 40-55) is on covenant restoration. Malachi, on the other hand, is addressing a people who have despised the covenant and who therefore have no real right to its claims or blessings.927 This prophet may, then, be employing irony in proposing that the people are indeed not looking for their covenant Lord but, as they have already phrased it, “Where is the God of justice (2:17)?” If they want the God of justice, He will come as Adon, the Lord and Master.928

The NT identifies the messenger of Malachi 3:1 as John the Baptist (Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2), making it clear that the messenger, in their view, is not deity. Indeed, he is not even an angel, but a man, a prophet, perhaps like Malachi himself. Malachi later elaborates on the identity of the messenger by referring to him as “Elijah the prophet” (4:5).929 Whether, as in later Jewish tradition, Malachi looked forward to the literal Elijah cannot be known,930 but Jesus himself, in the same context in which Mal. 3:1 is cited, says that Elijah to come is none other than John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14; cf. 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17). The Christological significance of Mal. 3:1 thus becomes immediately evident, for if John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus, then the Adon of Malachi can be none other than the Messiah.931 This may also explain why Adon is used rather than YHWH, for in the passage YHWH, speaks, thus distinguishing Himself, at least functionally, from Adon.

Though not totally without distant eschatological import (cf. Mal. 4:5, “the great and terrible day of YHWH”), the passage at hand is fundamentally to be connected to the first advent. The promise is that the way having been prepared, the Lord will come to His Temple (cf. Matt. 3:1-3; 21:12-17; Luke 2:41-51). The messenger who prepares the way does so as a covenant spokesman, one who reminds his hearers that the long-awaited (“whom you are seeking”) one has come to establish the kingdom of God as the ultimate expression of the ancient covenant promises (Matt. 11:11-13).932

The description of the messenger of the covenant as the “one in whom you delight” is somewhat problematic. In fact, most scholars identify this messenger with the Adon because it seems difficult to conceive of the messenger himself as the object of delight. Moreover, the parallel phrases, “the Adon whom you are seeking” and “the messenger in whom you delight” appear to make this equation conclusive. Nevertheless, for the following reasons it seems best to see the two messengers mentioned in this verse as one and the same and distinct from the Lord.

First, the uses of the technical term Ea*l=m^ in such close juxtaposition would lead one immediately to suppose that they refer to the same individual.933

Second, YHWH (or Adon) is never described elsewhere as a messenger, though the phrase “Angel of YHWH” does serve as a synonym for YHWH and frequently so (cf. Judg. 6:19-24; 13:2-14; etc.). Here, however, “Angel of YHWH” does not occur but “messenger (or angel) of the covenant.” The missing “of YHWH” certainly militates against this being YHWH.

Third, “messenger of the covenant” is a phrase occurring only here. This compounds the problem of its meaning, but the context in general would indicate that this is not a messenger of whom the covenant speaks but one who comes bearing the covenant message. That is, it is a subjective genitive. In this case the messenger is not the Adon, but one who comes to proclaim the covenant message of the Adon.934

Fourth, on the basis of the whole passage (vv. 1-5) and its NT fulfillment, it seems beyond question that the messenger here is human, not divine, and that his ministry can (and did) embrace all the elements of the passage. The objection that one cannot interpret an OT passage on the basis of NT fulfillment, citation, allusion, or otherwise fails to appreciate the wholistic nature of biblical revelation and the part that a comprehensive biblical theology and canonical witness must play in proper hermeneutical method. For the Christian, in fact, this appreciation is not an option but a sine qua non.

Having established on the basis of the witness of the gospels that John the Baptist was the predicted messenger of Mal. 3:1a, it is necessary now to see if he qualifies as the messenger of 3:1c.935 That one is “desired” by the people, the prophet says, but surely the prophet is speaking irony here, for their question of 2:17 betrays their cynicism. They no more desire the messenger than they seek the Lord.

John’s message was certainly attractive to those who came to hear him, but he understood full well that their “desire” for him was superficial. In fact, he called the curious religious leaders “offspring of vipers” who were in need of repentance (Matt. 3:7-8). He then announced the coming of the Lord, who would thoroughly sweep His threshing floor, gather the wheat for storage, and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matt. 3:12). John therefore brought an unpopular message, one that crushed his hearers with its convicting power and knocked out from under their feet the hypocritical religiosity on which they depended (Mal. 3:2). He was a veritable “refiner’s fire” and “washerman’s soap” among his own generation, for his message drove a wedge between those who believed and repented and those who closed up their hearts to the overtures of covenant grace (Matt. 3:6; cf. vv. 7-8; 11:7-11).

Most specifically, John’s message and ministry were directed to the religious leadership of Judaism, an element that could easily be accommodated under the loosely defined rubric of “Levite.”936 Malachi’s messenger, the prophet says, will refine and purify the Levites in particular until those who are purged of their dross meet the standards for ministry to YHWH (3:3). Obviously the cleansing and refining are not done by the messenger as such but by the message he proclaims. In the NT frame of reference this is the gospel message that accomplishes this work of sifting and separating (Matt. 3:12).

The effects of John’s personal ministry in terms of these specific results are not easy to determine. That the message he proclaimed produced these results in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles cannot be denied. Many of the priests and other religious leaders believed (cf. John 3:1; 19:39; Acts 6:7) and in that important sense became purified and qualified to serve as priests of a new order. Then and only then could they offer up to YHWH a “righteous offering” (Mal. 3:3), one that is reminiscent of those of old which, when offered by men of faith, were pleasing to him (v. 4).937

As for the question, “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17), the answer is “I will come to you in judgment” (3:5). The agent of purification who announced the coming of the Lord now gives way to the Lord, to YHWH, who will come as Judge.938 The shift from the “he” of the first phase of the messianic coming (eight occurrences of “he” or “his” in vv. 1-4) to the “I” of the second phase lends support to the thesis that the work of the messenger is distinct from that of the Lord.939 The refining and purification, moreover, appear to have special relevance to the priests and Levites, whereas the judgment breaks those narrow bounds to encompass all of society. Finally, although it is difficult to establish within the passage itself, it seems clear from a full (NT) analysis that the setting of vv. 1-4 is primarily First Advent while that of v. 5 is more distant.940 The message of John the Baptist was one of purging and perfecting within the covenant fellowship so as to isolate a godly remnant therein (Matt. 3:10-11a). The message of YHWH is one of judgment with no hopeful note of repentance or salvation (Matt. 3:11b-12).

The catalogue of religious and social wrongs enumerated by the prophet (v. 5) does not necessarily correspond to specific items already mentioned by him (though compare sorcery941 to “foreign god,” 2:11, and adultery to mixed marriage, also 2:11) but is a rather formulaic list descriptive of apostate people of any time and place.942 This is clear from the summary statement, “and do not fear me.” Those who wonder if there is justice will discover ruefully in the day of God’s wrath that indeed there is. Self-deceit will then be exposed, and those who find comfort in it will be judged accordingly.

    B. Resistance through Selfishness (3:6-12)

      1. The Problem (3:6-9)


6 “Since, I, YHWH, do not change, you, O sons of Jacob, have not perished. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says YHWH of hosts. “But you say, ‘How should we return?’ 8 Can a man *rob God? You indeed are *robbing Me, but you say, ‘How are we *robbing You?’ *In tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with the curse because you are *robbing Me—this entire nation.”

Exegesis and Exposition

Just as the people were resisting YHWH and His covenant claims on them through a perverse self-deception and inverted sense of righteousness, so they express resistance in flagrant self-centeredness and acquisitiveness. Though this may be demonstrated in any number of ways, their withholding of tribute to YHWH their sovereign Lord is the case in point in the present pericope.

Malachi continues his rhetorical pattern of disputation by leveling an accusation against the people (v. 7a), by recording their supercilious question as to how to rectify the problem (v. 7b), and then by specifying once more what it is (v. 8). The form is more complicated this time943 because there is a double accusation: “you have turned aside from my statutes” and “you are robbing me.” There is also a double question: “how should we return?” and “How are we robbing You?” but only a single specification— “in tithes and contributions.” The first specification is, however, implicit in the first allegation— “you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them.” This is so specific as not to warrant the naive questions that are otherwise raised. Also added to the pattern is a self-standing introductory statement of principle (v. 6) and a concluding word as to the results of the present problem (v. 9).

The introductory particle yK! (k) in v. 6 may be understood in a variety of ways. If it is taken in a causal sense (“because, since”), it can refer either to the previous paragraph,944 thereby granting the guilty of that section some figment of hope inasmuch as YHWH’s covenant pledge is inalterable, or it can introduce the next paragraph, providing the same basis for His dealings with them as with the fathers in the past. The latter is by far to be preferred because the final verb (hl*K*, kala) is in the perfect, “have not perished,” the only translation the verb sequence allows. Therefore, the verse provides a general theological affirmation that the nation has not perished because YHWH Himself never changes. He always remains true to His covenant commitments.945 The perfect tenses in v. 7a, followed by participles (v. 8) to bring the action to the present, favors the connection of v. 6 to vv. 7 ff. as well. The causal sense of yK! is quite suitable to this.946

A second possibility is that yK! is asseverative, to be rendered “indeed,” “surely,” or the like.947 This is in line with the overall thrust of the passage, but the conjunction prefixed to <T#a^ (attem), “you,” weakens this likelihood unless the asseverative also carries a causal nuance such as, “Indeed, I, YHWH, do not change, so you,” etc. Any other rendering of the waw conjunctive would be extremely problematic.948 It is better on the whole to take the w+yK! (k we, “since … therefore”) as a cause-result construction, as the translation proposes.

The changelessness of YHWH here has to do with covenant fidelity, as the “statutes (v. 7) and “the curse” (v. 9) suggest. These two terms give His immutability a framework, for it is the very fickleness and faithlessness of the covenant people vis vis the covenant that are at issue here, a changeableness on their part that must be contrasted with the steadfastness of YHWH. They have “turned aside” (rWs, sur) from His statutes from the time of the early ancestors, refusing to keep them. To keep (rm^v*, samar) the statutes (<yQ!j%, huqqm) is a fundamental duty of the vassal in the covenant contract (cf. Deut. 11:32; 26:17; etc.).

The utter dependability of YHWH, however, means that those who have turned aside have someone to whom they can come back. “Return (WbWv, subu) to Me,” He says, “and I will return (hb*Wva*, asuba) to you.” This appeal for and expression of genuine repentance will inevitably be met by YHWH’s willingness to forgive, for His covenant word is as firmly established as He is. But Malachi’s generation has hardened itself to such a gracious invitation because they see no need to return in the first place. “How should we return?” is not an earnest entreaty for information but a self-serving declaration of innocence.949 The people, in effect, are saying, “What need do we have to return since we never turned away to begin with?”

At this point the specific charge is made: A return is absolutely essential because you, the people, have robbed God! With this allegation flung in their faces their hollow pretenses to innocence are ripped away, and their query as to how or why they must return is answered. For a man to rob God seems preposterous, and this is the effect of the rhetorical question of v. 8a. But it is not preposterous, for Israel has done it (and was doing it, as the participle emphasizes). Even the feeble rejoinder “How are we robbing you?” is nothing but a last gasp effort to maintain a facade of nonculpability. This facade, too, is demolished by the unambiguous response of YHWH: “Tithes and contributions!” There are not even verbs or other qualifiers to soften the impact of the words (v. 8b ).

“Tithes” (rc@u&m^, ma`aser)950 refers primarily to the presentation of a tenth of one’s goods to YHWH as a tribute of thanks for His blessing (Gen. 14:20; 28:22). It was used in the tabernacle and Temple administration to provide for the material welfare of the priests and Levites (Num. 18:21, 26) and, if enjoyed at all by the donor, it must be shared within the holy precincts (Deut. 12:17-18) with the Levites and others in need (Deut. 14:26-27; 26:12). The tithe, then, had a social dimension in that it provided for those who had no other means of support.

The “contributions” are the gifts “offered up” (hm*WrT=, teruma, from <Wr, rum, “to be high”).951 These are the same in material as the tithes and serve the same function, namely, to meet the needs of the disadvantaged and otherwise dependent (cf. Lev. 22:12; Num. 5:9), particularly the priests and Levites. The major differences between the two kinds of gifts are: (1) that the tithe was a mandatory tenth, whereas the “contribution” was voluntary, and (2) the “contribution” seems to have been used exclusively to meet the needs of the clergy, whereas the tithes served a broader social function.

Because the people have robbed God by withholding these gifts, they have already suffered “the curse” (v. 9). The article on “curse” (hr`a@M=B^, bammeera) reveals it to be a specific judgment applicable to this kind of covenant violation. What form it took cannot be determined with certainty.952 The use of the same word in Mal. 2:2 shows it to be most serious indeed, for there the curse comes if God’s glory is not sought, a curse that results in the overturning of all blessing. Whatever it is, it is already having its deleterious effect across the board and nationwide (v. 9).

Additional Notes

3:8 For the four occurrences in vv. 8, 9 of ub^q*, “to rob” (BDB, p. 867), the LXX presupposes the metathesized form bq^u*, “to deceive” (KBL, 820). Admittedly ubq is a rare word, occurring elsewhere only in Prov. 23:23. There, however, it clearly is a synonym of lz~G` in v. 22, as the parallel, chiastic structure of the passage indicates. Moreover, in speaking of the matter of tithes and contributions one would hardly use the verb “deceive.” Theft or robbery seems to be required in the nature of the case.

The absolute state of hm*WrT=h^w+ rc@u&M^h^ has led BHS, with Syr., Tg. Neb. and Vg to prefix each noun with B=, thus “in” or “by tithes and contributions.” However, the impact of YHWH’s indictment is heightened by the present form of the text, and the MT, for that reason alone, is superior.

      2. The Promise (3:10-12)


10 Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says YHWH of hosts, “if I will not open to you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no room for it. 11 Then I will rebuke the devourer for you so that it will no longer corrupt the produce of the ground, nor will the vine in the field lose its fruit (before harvest),” says YHWH of hosts. 12 “All nations will call you happy, for you indeed will be a delightful land,” says YHWH of hosts.

Exegesis and Exposition

The proper response to the problem of selfishness, is, of course, generosity and altruism. This is no less the case when one robs God, as Malachi’s fellow countrymen were doing. Therefore, the instruction is straightforward and unambiguous— “bring the whole tithe.” This must be placed in the Temple storehouse (rx*oah* tyB@, bet haosar), which was like a warehouse for the collection of commodities presented by the people in accordance with the tithing laws referred to above (cf. v. 8). From here the goods presumably were distributed to the priests and Levites as a part of their remuneration and, separately, to the indigent elements of the society.

Nehemiah refers to these facilities as a hl*odg+ hK*v=l! (liska gedola), “a great chamber” (Neh. 13:5), a place whose function was to house offertory grains, frankincense, Temple vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil. These were to be allocated to the Levites, singers, porters, and priests (v. 6). Nehemiah relates that the system had broken down, however, with the result that the Levites and singers had had to go to the fields to collect their own food supplies (v. 10). He then brought about measures to enforce the proper payment of the tithes (v. 12). The concern for tithing articulated by Malachi remained unaddressed until the force of Nehemiah’s leadership gave it embodiment decades later.

The blessing in the tithe was not just in the sense of obedience to the divine mandate, but it took tangible form in YHWH’s reciprocation. “Give to Me, and I will give to you,” He said in effect. In fact, the comparatively miserly giving of a tenth would result in a blessing in kind so immense that it would overflow the capacity of the people to receive it (Mal. 3:10). It is not inappropriate to apply this to spiritual and other immaterial blessings, but the prophet speaks of the bounties of harvest. YHWH will rebuke the “devourer,” a term so general (lk@a), okel, lit. “the eater”) that it can apply to any scourge of the harvest whether it be an animal, pest, or adverse climate. As a result the produce of the field and the fruit of the vine will come to full maturity in their proper time (v. 11).

When such evidence of blessing comes to pass, all the nations will call Judah happy (v. 12). It will be clear to them that everything is in balance, that Judah’s God has returned favor for obedience, that those who honor their God are in turn honored by Him. Judah will be a delightful land. The ambiguous nature of the genitive construction in this last line (Jp#j@ Jra#, eres hepes, lit. “land of delight”) makes it possible for it to be understood either as a land that causes delight, that is, to its inhabitants and others, or as a land in which one finds delight, that is, by YHWH as the focus of His blessing.953 The parallelism with the previous line favors the latter interpretation.

    C. Resistance through Self-sufficiency (3:13-21 [EB 4:3])

      1. The Problem (3:13-15)


13 “Your words against Me have been hard,” says YHWH, “but you ask, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is useless serving God. What profit is there that we have kept His charge and have walked like mourners before YHWH of hosts? 15 Now, therefore, we consider the arrogant to be happy; indeed, those who practice evil are built up. In fact, those who test God escape.’”

Exegesis and Exposition

The third attitude of resistance to YHWH on the part of the postexilic Jewish community was expressed in its assertion of self-sufficiency. This is most surprising in that historical context, for if anything should have been obvious, it was that the very existence of that community depended on the prevenient grace and power of YHWH alone. All the self-effort in the world could not accomplish their release and return from Babylonia. Nor could they view the remarkable rebuilding of the Temple and the renewal of the state as anything but a supernatural work of their God.

Malachi’s contemporaries soon forgot all that, however, and began to entertain the notion that the success and prosperity that had attended their efforts were of their own making. Indeed, it seemed that serving God had nothing to do with it. In fact, those among them who repudiated the sovereign claims of YHWH appeared to be happiest and most successful. This spirit, then, leads to the final exchange of accusation and response in the book. This time, however, the question by the accused is not “How?” (hM*B^, bamma) as in 1:2, 6, 7; 2:17; 3:7, 8. Rather, it is “what?” (hm*, ma). The reason, of course, is that the accusation does not concern response to an affirmation by YHWH (cf. 1:2) or a question that He has posed (1:6) or even a complaint He has made in which He registers personal grievance (2:17). In this case YHWH merely refers to words spoken to Him without immediately elaborating on their effect. The people’s response, then, can only be, “What are the words?”954

The words are “hard” (qz~j*, hazaq), that is, perverse or cynical (BDB, p. 304), words “against” YHWH.955 The accusation has now been reversed, for it is the people who lay charge against Him. Pretending to be oblivious of this massive hubris, they ask YHWH to specify the words in question. What have they said that has been so offensive (v. 13)? The very fact that words have been spoken against Him points to the heart of the problem—God has appeared to become unnecessary and, indeed, the object of contempt and scorn.

This is evident in their conclusion that it is useless (aw+v*, saw, lit. “emptiness, vanity”) to serve God. All their devotion to covenant requirement, which is clearly implicit in their prideful statement “we have kept His charge” (oTr+m^v=m! Wnr+m^v*, samarnu mismarto), has gained them no profit. Even their displays of public devotion and self-effacing piety, manifested in their “walking about like mourners,” has yielded no dividends.956 It has not really paid to serve YHWH (v. 14). So much for the benefits to be gained by the godly who seek to impress their evil compatriots with the rewarding life of covenant commitment.

To make matters worse, they say, those very evil ones whose lives are an antithesis to everything YHWH desires enjoy life at its best. By observing how it goes with the arrogant, the impartial observer can only conclude that they are happy, that is, prosperous and satisfied (v. 15). The doers of evil (thus the participle hc@uo, `ose), those who make it their everyday pursuit, are built up. They seem to know nothing of the disintegrating tragedies of human experience where everything falls apart. Instead, they are affirmed and vindicated in all their ways. They even go so far as to put God to the test957 and come away scot-free, escaping both His censure and His punishment.

All these, then, are the words spoken against YHWH. They are words of complaint that the evil of this world seem to be as well off or more so than the righteous, a common complaint in the wisdom tradition especially (Job 9:22-24; 21:7-20; cf. Ps. 73:1-14; Jer. 5:26-27; 12:1; Hab. 1:4). But in making this complaint, those who do so have only a short-range view of God’s ways among men. The self-sufficiency of the sinner will turn out to be hollow in the day when YHWH comes to establish true equity. That day is the theme of the promise in 3:16-4:3.

      2. The Promise (3:16-21 [EB 4:3])


16 *Then those who revered YHWH spoke to each other, and YHWH heard and heeded. (Now a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who revere YHWH and esteem His name.) 17 “They will be mine,” says YHWH of hosts, “in the day when I prepare (My own) possession. I will spare them as one spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you will discern between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not. 19 For indeed the day is coming, burning like a furnace, and all the arrogant and evildoers will be chaff. The coming day will burn them, says YHWH of hosts, “so that it will not leave them root or branch. 20 But for you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 21 You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says YHWH of hosts.

Exegesis and Exposition

The words of rebuke by YHWH (v. 13) and those of the people in support of their spirit of self-sufficiency (vv. 14-15) are followed now by a positive response by some who repent (v. 16) and a promise by YHWH of blessing (vv. 17-18, 20-21 [EB 4:2-3]) and of judgment (v. 19 [EB 4:1]).

The present passage serves as a conclusion not only to vv. 13-15, however, but to the entire section 2:17-3:15. It explains what happens to those who resist the saving overtures of YHWH and, happily, to those who do not but who turn to Him in faith and repentance. This appears to have come about in Malachi’s own time, but the principle of divine response to human behavior is not limited to that era. The tone of the passage suggests that it summarizes the dynamics of the divine-human relationship for all time. Those who turn to Him God blesses, but those who do not will face inevitable judgment.

The words of the prophet did not fall altogether on stony ground, for he reports that certain ones, “fearing YHWH,” spoke to one another in such a way that YHWH heard, forgave, and remembered (v. 16). To fear God is to revere Him, to recognize and confess His awesome sovereignty. Malachi uses the verb “to fear” frequently, both as an appeal (1:6; 2:5; 3:20 [EB 4:2]) and as a description of human response (2:5; 3:5). It is not overstating the case to say that the term in his lexicon is a synonym for covenant stance.958 When he calls his congregation to covenant fidelity, he does so in terms of their fearing YHWH. When he chides them for covenant disloyalty, he says they no longer fear Him.

Thus, those fearing gave evidence of their renewed commitment by talking to one another, presumably in the sense of a mutual confession and corporate repentance. They discussed with one another the meaning of Malachi’s message and together agreed that it correctly pinpointed their sinful condition and called for their radical reformation.959 Whatever they said among themselves was favorably received by YHWH. He “gave attention” (bv@q=Y~w^, wayyaqseb) and “heard” (um^v=Y]w, wayyisma`). This hendiadys construction means that YHWH paid the closest heed to what was said. So moved was He by the sincerity of the repentance He heard that He recorded their names in His “book of remembrance.”

The use of participles in v. 16b and the whole tenor of the passage suggest that this sentence should be constructed parenthetically as a word of explanation. That is, YHWH did not just then originate a book of remembrance specifically in response to the repentance of Malachi’s converts. Such a book had always existed, one that listed the “fearers of YHWH” (hw`hy+ ya@r+y], yire YHWH) and “the thinkers of His name” (omv= yb@V=j), hosebe semo). Though the book (more correctly, scroll) is obviously metaphorical of YHWH’s omniscient recall, it appears elsewhere in the OT in a similar capacity. Moses, pleading on behalf of his people, begged YHWH to expunge his name from “the book you have written” if his people were condemned to extinction (Ex. 32:32). Isaiah spoke of those “written unto life” (4:3), and Daniel referred to the ultimate deliverance of God’s people, “everyone found written in the book” (12:1). The NT also speaks of a “book of life,” a record of names of those destined to eternal bliss (Rev. 20:12-15).

Malachi’s term “book of remembrance” (/orK*z] rp#s@, seper zikkaron) is unique to him. It conveys, in highly anthropomorphic language, the idea of a divine ledger in which the names of God’s covenant children are recorded for posterity.960 There is not a chance that even one name can ever be forgotten in such a system. Therefore, when the day comes for YHWH to prepare His “possession,” all those whose names appear in the record will be called forth to make up this happy host.

The “possession” (hL*g%s=, segulla) is a technical expression of the people of YHWH as His treasure or property, one rightly His by virtue of redemption. The word first occurs in Ex. 19:5 in the context of the offer of a covenant relationship by YHWH to Israel.961 YHWH says, “If you will obey My voice and keep My covenant, you will become My own possession (segulla) among all people, though all the earth is mine.” Israel thus is God’s special property, for He chose her and she in turn acceded (Ex. 19:8). The same concept occurs in Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18.

Malachi is clearly looking to an eschatological day of new covenant, as both the term “possession” and the phrase “in the day” (3:17) or “the day comes” (3:19 [EB 4:1]) attest. Just as YHWH had prepared a possession through exodus and covenant in days of old, He will do the same in the day to come. The parallels between the two times of redemption are further strengthened in v. 17b, where YHWH says He will spare His people as one who spares the son who serves him. YHWH had referred to Israel in Egyptian bondage as His son (Ex. 4:22-23) and had instructed Moses to command Pharaoh to let the people go that they might serve Him (cf. Ex. 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 11, 24).962 When Pharaoh refused to the end, his land and family suffered the death of the first-born sons. Only the sons of Israel, covered by the Passover blood, were “spared” (Ex. 12:23-27). Though the verb employed by Malachi (lm^j*, hamal) is not used in the Passover account, the effect is the same. So also in the future Day of YHWH He will spare His own choice possession just as one spares his own son who serves him; indeed, just as He Himself spared Israel His son who was redeemed to serve Him.

The covenant perspective continues in v. 18 with the sharp distinction between those who serve God and those who do not. The servants are the liege vassals of the Great king, made such by the election and redemption of YHWH already described in v. 17. Those who do not serve Him are those who stand outside the pale of the covenant relationship. Or, to put it in other terms as Malachi himself does, those who serve God are the righteous and those who do not are the wicked. The distinction between the two may have become blurred to the point of no essential difference at all in the day of the prophet, but the day will come when such lines of demarcation will be crystal clear. Then the prevailing opinion that the arrogant are happy, the evil-doers are built up, and the ones who test God go unscathed (3:15) will be exposed for the grand self-deception that it truly is.963

The means by which the differences between the righteous and wicked will be clarified will be fearful indeed, and herein lies the promise of judgment in response to the problem of self-sufficiency outlined in vv. 13-15. The same day that will bring about the reconstitution of God’s son, the covenant nation (v. 17), will bring also the burning of a furnace,964 a fire that will consume the wicked as so much chaff (v. 19 [EB 4:1]). The words used here to describe these, the “arrogant” (<yd!z}, zedm) and “evildoers” (hu*v=r] hc@u), `ose ris`a), are the very ones (in reverse order) the prophet employed in v. 15 to speak of those who appeared to prosper despite their sinfulness. The point is thus most apparent. Because the evil seem to enjoy the favor of YHWH in this world and in this age, it may be difficult to distinguish between them and the righteous or, in any event, to consider such distinctions meaningful (v. 14). However, in “that day” the fire will clarify these matters and as it refines and purifies precious metals, allowing the dross to be exposed (cf. Mal. 3:2-3), so it will burn away the false and the hypocritical, leaving the righteous to stand vindicated.

Again, the righteous are described as “you who fear My name” (v. 20 [EB 4:2]; cf. 3:16). To them (that is, on their behalf, hence “for you”) “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” This complex metaphor serves as a radical contrast to the violent destruction of the previous verse.965 In keeping with the notion of”day” as a time of YHWH’s eschatological intervention, that day of wrath and judgment for the wicked will be for the godly a cloudless day heralded by the rising of the sun as an instrument of blessing (cf. 2 Sam. 23:4). Isaiah speaks of it as a day when the sun will be seven times more brilliant than usual, a time when YHWH will “bind up the hurt of his people and heal the blow of their wound” (Isa. 30:26). In that day, the same prophet says, “the glory of YHWH will rise upon you” (60:1) so that “nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising” (60:3). What is burning fire to the godless will be glowing warmth and healing to the righteous.

The healing brought by the rejuvenating “wings”966 of the sun (perhaps its rays or effects) certainly includes recovery from literal and physical ailments, but it should not be limited to these. The human condition is one of pervasive sickness as was that of biblical Israel, a sickness traceable to and inextricably linked to sin. Thus the suffering of the servant, for example, was to produce a healing and one synonymous with victory over transgression and iniquity (Isa. 53:5). The demonstration of that healing in Malachi’s message is the renewal of strength and spirit that will energize the healed to “skip about like calves from the stall.” It takes little imagination to envision these frisky young animals gamboling about in absolute freedom after confinement in a narrow stall. Filled with the fervor of youth and wholeness, they kick their heels high in the sheer exhilaration of their happy state. So it will be in the day of YHWH`s healing grace.

The closing bracket of the unit draws attention once more to the wicked (v. 21 [EB 4:3]). The remnant of YHWH, having been delivered and renewed, will take up their covenant privilege of dominion and as the agents of the sovereign will tread down the wicked. The verb ss^u*, (`asas, “tread down”) occurs only here, but its cognate noun (sys!u*, `ass), which means “sweet wine” (BDB, 779), puts its meaning beyond question. The normal verb for treading down in conquest or dominion is Er^D* (darak). This is not used here perhaps because the figure of a calf dancing about (v. 20 [EB 4:2]) has influenced the choice of a synonym. One can imagine the calf crushing the grapes much more readily than standing with its foot on the neck or back of a defeated foe.967

In any case, the picture is still one of dominion. The wicked, who have already been incinerated by the furnace of divine wrath (v. 19 [EB 4:1]), will be but mounds of ashes beneath the triumphant feet of God’s saints. This will come to pass, He repeats, on the day He is preparing, that is, the day of perfecting His own possession (cf. 3:17).

Though it is tempting to see something of the full-blown NT doctrine of hell in this passage, to do so is to step outside the imagery here and to be theologically premature. Nevertheless, the idea of a day of judgment in which the wicked will be consumed is clearly in view. Isaiah had, in fact, preceded Malachi in looking to such a day when he says in YHWH’s words, “They will go forth and look on the dead bodies of those who have transgressed against Me, for their worm shall not die, nor shall their fire be quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to everyone” (Isa. 66:24; cf. Matt 3:12; Mark. 9:48). One cannot, therefore, take “ashes” (rp#a@, eper) exclusively figuratively either, as some scholars do.968 It is indeed used that way in other places (cf. Job 13:12; Isa. 44:20; Ezek. 28:18), but here the burning of the wicked (3:19 [EB 4:1]) that leaves “neither root nor branch” can hardly tolerate metaphorical speech. The fire and ashes no doubt speak only of death, but it is real death, nonetheless, and not just some kind of subjugation or humiliation.969

On this somber note Malachi’s record of conflict between YHWH and His people of the postexilic community comes to an end. Priest and people alike had sinned in sacrilege and rebellion. They had resisted the pleadings of divine love through the prophet, choosing to continue in their selfish and independent ways. But as was true throughout biblical history, all was not lost, for there was a remnant that heard and heeded. With them there could always be a new beginning and a promise of ultimate success in the redeeming purposes of God. In the day of His restitution the godly who responded positively to Malachi, as well as those of all ages, will stand vindicated and triumphant upon the ashes of the unrepentant.

Additional Notes

3:16 Since the MT does not indicate what the people said to one another, the LXX and Syr. have presupposed taz) or the like and render, “Thus the fearers of YHWH spoke,” etc. It is hardly likely, however, that God-fearers said what is recorded in vv. 13-15 (or in 16b ff.). Moreover, the gist of what they said may be inferred from YHWH’s response: He entered the names of the God-fearers into His book of remembrance. They must have spoken words of exhortation to repentance.

Restoration through YHWH
(3:22-24 [EB 4:4-6])

Many scholars, following the Greek version, place v. 22 after vv. 23-24, presumably to allow the book to end on a more positive note (see Introduction, pp. 385-86). Others argue that vv. 23-24 are an addition to the original composition, the uncomfortable juxtaposition between vv. 22 and 23 and the unexpected reintroduction of the “Day of YHWH” theme being principal reasons. The MT tradition knows nothing but the present arrangement, however. As for the work ending on the bleak notion of curse, conditions in Malachi’s day, only exacerbated in the accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah, give real justification for the prophet’s handling of the material. A grand and glorious day is indeed coming, but it will be a day of blessing only for those who are ready for it. For those who are not—and there must have been many such in Malachi’s hearing—it is a day of unmitigated tragedy. To fail to repent and to make peace with God is to leave oneself open to the curse with which the book ends.970


22 “Remember the law of My servant Moses, which I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel—statutes and ordinances. 23 Behold, I am about to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of YHWH comes. 24 He will turn the hearts of the fathers toward their children and the hearts of the children toward their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The reference to Elijah is very much at home here, for it and Mal. 3:1 provide an enveloping structure to all of chapter 3 (+ 4 in the EB). The messenger who prepares the way for YHWH is none other than Elijah, as both Jewish and Christian exegetical tradition affirm. How he fulfills that role will be addressed presently.

I have argued throughout this commentary on Malachi that the prophet is inordinately preoccupied with the motif of covenant. It is most appropriate, then, that the concluding promise of eschatological restoration should be rooted in and conditioned upon the covenant.971 The appeals Malachi has made to his generation repeatedly can be boiled down to the injunction of v. 22 (EB 4:4): “Remember the law of My servant Moses.” This is all YHWH requires of His redeemed people, but nothing less will do.

To remember is to do.972 There is no abstract reflection here but a command to bear in mind and to put into effect. This is the very exhortation Moses himself made, especially in the great pareneses of Deuteronomy. “Remember YHWH your God,” he said, “that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers” (Deut. 8:18). They must remember, too, that they had been slaves in Egypt and inasmuch as YHWH had redeemed them, they were to obey His commands (15:15). Then, as though to preclude their thinking of Torah as an overgeneralized statement of vague principle, YHWH specifies the requirements of covenant fealty—the statutes (<yQ!j%, huqqm) and ordinances (<yf!P*v=m!, mispatm). So the remembering must be grounded in identifiable, discrete propositions, the stipulation texts of the covenant codes. Only when God’s people meet these conditions of covenant compliance can they expect the long-anticipated restoration.

Lest the whole process appear to be merely quid pro quo, restoration for blind obedience, YHWH promises to send the prophet Elijah to prepare for the Day of YHWH (vv. 23-24 [EB 5:4-6]). It will be his task to preach a message of reconciliation that will draw father to children and children to father (cf. Luke 1:17). To “turn the heart” (bl@ byv!h@, hesb leb) is an expression in Hebrew that shows, grammatically, divine initiative at work.973 It is YHWH who causes hearts to turn and change (cf. 1 Sam. 10:6, 9). It is true, of course, that leb in Hebrew psychology means fundamentally the mind, the rational power of man. But this does not at all undercut the need for divine prevenience in effecting change in human relationships.

The fact that only fathers and children are named does not limit the scope of the passage. Clearly these are just examples of the whole network of human relationships. Sin has so effectively disrupted the wholeness and happiness of societal life that no amount of good intentions or merely mechanical adherence to even the gracious provisions of Torah can patch things up again. What is needed is a redeeming word from YHWH mediated through a prophet like Elijah. That word, faithfully proclaimed, will accomplish a healing, reconciling result.974 When that occurs covenant is kept, at least on the horizontal axis, and if on that axis certainly on the vertical as well, because it is one integrated whole. Without that contravening message there would be no hope, for it would be impossible to keep the covenant without the divine energy that that word imparts. Instead Israel, and indeed the whole earth, would be consigned to the ban like a heathen nation.

The ban (<rj@, herem) was the judgment of God on places, things, and hopelessly unrepentant people that resulted in the extermination of living beings and the destruction or appropriation by YHWH of the rest.975 Were God’s people at last to remain in unbelief and rebellion, they must suffer the fate of those placed under herem, for they, too, would be under His everlasting curse. The whole earth would suffer similarly, for without the mediatorial ministry of Israel, the kingdom of priests, the program of YHWH for universal redemption would collapse and the design for a universal kingdom come to an end.

In what sense should one understand the coming of Elijah? The answers to this question are varied. The OT record reveals that he did not die but was translated bodily into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). His coming thus could be more easily explained and made possible without the impediment of death. His very ascension perhaps was for the purpose of his later eschatological appearance as forerunner of the coming of YHWH. Jewish tradition from earliest times viewed it in this way,976 as even the NT suggests. When the Jewish masses learned of the ministry of John the Baptist in the wilderness, they went out to him and inquired as to his identity. Was he the Messiah, they wondered, or Elijah, or the prophet, that is, the prophet of Deuteronomy 18? To each of these his answer was no. But the very question reflects anticipation of a coming Elijah.

Jesus, in an apparent contradiction of John’s own testimony, clearly identified John as Elijah (Matt. 11:14), but in a highly nuanced way. John’s inquisitors had wondered if he was not actually Elijah in the flesh returned to earth. This he was not, as he made clear in his reply. But he was, however, an Elijah figure, one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. This is why Jesus qualified His assessment of the Elijah-John identification by saying, “If you are willing to receive him, this is Elijah who is to come.” That is, John stands in fulfillment of the promise of Malachi concerning the coming of Elijah but only in the sense that he announced the coming of Christ, just as the messenger would come to announce the coming of Adon (Mal. 3:1).

Jesus touched on this point again in the transfiguration narrative (Matt. 17:1-13; cf. Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). When Jesus appeared on the mountain in glory, He was accompanied by Moses and Elijah, the same two figures mentioned by Malachi. In later discussion with His disciples about His resurrection, they reminded Him that before the messianic manifestation could come to pass Elijah must first appear. Jesus agreed that Elijah must restore all things, but then announced that Elijah had already come, only to be rejected. They then understood that Jesus once more was connecting Elijah with John the Baptist.

As argued previously, however, in connection with Mal. 3:1, the messenger of the covenant there and John the Baptist are one and the same. Jesus established this linkage (Matt. 11:10-11) and went on to make the further linkage between John and Elijah in the same passage (Matt. 11:14). But Mal. 3:1-6, as we saw, has eschatological as well as messianic overtones. This suggests that the messenger (and thus also Elijah) has an eschatological identification and role as well. There is still a sense, then, in which Elijah is yet to come.977 This is put beyond question by Mal. 3:23 (EB 4:5), which locates Elijah’s coming in the setting of “the great and terrible day of YHWH,” a description freighted with eschatological language.

It is likely, then, that the historical Elijah is not in view but instead an antitype Elijah who, like John, will announce the coming of YHWH in a day yet future.978 But the fact that he may not be the historical Elijah cannot mitigate against the literalness of the figure himself any more than it could against the literalness of the historical John the Baptist.

Why Elijah is mentioned and not someone else may have to do with his place as a prophet non pareil.979 Moses appears in Mal. 3:21 (EB 4:4) in connection with the Law; Elijah appears in the next verse, perhaps in connection with the prophets. Thus the whole canon of Malachi’s day is represented, attesting univocally to the certainty of YHWH’s coming salvation. This sublime act of final redemption is confirmed by the word of two witnesses (Deut. 19:15), just as its anticipatory revelation in the Transfiguration of our Lord was accompanied by the same two witnesses, Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:3). The great and terrible day of YHWH is a certainty, as both law and prophecy declare. But it will be a day of salvation for those of Israel, who, by the message of grace preached by Elijah, are thereby made capable of adhering to the covenant of Moses to which YHWH likewise elected them by grace.


The following abbreviations supplement the list adopted by the Journal of Biblical Literature:






Beitrage zur Wissenschaft von Alten Testament


Criswell Theological Review


English Bible


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary


Grace Theological Journal


Hebrew Bible


Indian Theological Studies


International Theological Commentary


The Journal of Theology


Kurzer Hand-Kommentar zum Alten Testament


New King James Version


Ou-Testamentiese Werkgemeenskap van Suid-Afrika


Reformed Theological Review


Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology


Southwestern Journal of Theology


Samaritan Pentateuch




Transactions of the American Philosophical Society


Theologisches Handworterbuch zum Alten Testament


Theologia Evangelica


Tyndale Old Testament Commentary


Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary

Selected Bibliography

General Works

Ackroyd, Peter R. Exile and Restoration. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968.

________. Israel Under Babylon and Persia. Oxford: Oxford Univ., 1970.

Archer, Gleason L., Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. Chicago: Moody, 1985.

Bright, John. A History of Israel. 3d ed. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981.

Childs, Brevard S. Introduction to the Old Testament As Scripture. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979.

Cathcart, Kevin J., and Robert P. Gordon. The Targum of the Minor Prophets. Vol. 14. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1989.

Davies, W. D., and Louis Finkelstein, eds. The Cambridge History of Judaism. Vol. 1, Introduction: The Persian Period. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1984.

De Vaux, Roland. Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institutions. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1961.

Driver, S. R. An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1913.

Eissfeldt, Otto. The Old Testament, An Introduction. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965.

Fishbane, Michael. Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel. Oxford: Clarendon, 1985.

Fohrer, Georg. Introduction to the Old Testament. London: SPCK, 1970.

France, R. T. Jesus and the Old Testament. London: Tyndale, 1971.

Hanson, Paul. The Dawn of Apocalyptic. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975.

Harrison, R. K. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969.

Kaiser, Otto. Introduction to the Old Testament. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975.

Kirkpatrick, A. F. The Doctrine of the Prophets. London: Macmillan, 1901.

Koch, Klaus. The Rediscovery of Apocalyptic. SBT 22. London: SCM, 1972.

Merrill, Eugene H. Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987.

Olmstead, A. T. History of the Persian Empire. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1948.

Parker, Richard A., and Waldo H. Dubberstein. Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.—A.D. 75. Providence, R.I.: Brown Univ., 1956.

Pritchard, James B., ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton, Princeton, N.J.: Univ., 1950.

Russell, D. S. The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic. London: SCM, 1964.

Soggin, J. Alberto. Introduction to the Old Testament. London: SCM, 1989.

Weiser, Artur. Introduction to the Old Testament. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1961.

Westermann, Claus. Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967.

Wiseman, D. J. Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings (625-556 B.C.) in the British Museum. London: British Museum, 1956.

Yamauchi, Edwin M. Persia and the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990.


    Commentaries and Special Studies

Amsler, Samuel. Agge, Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14. CAT. Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestl, 1981.

Baldwin, Joyce G. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. London: Tyndale, 1972.

Beuken, W. A. M. Haggai—Sacharja 1-8. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1967.

Coggins, R. J. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Sheffield: JSOT, 1987.

Elliger, Karl. Das Buch der zwlf kleinen Profeten. Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982.

Horst, F. Die zwlf kleinen Propheten Nahum bis Maleachi. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1964.

Mason, Rex. The Books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. CBC. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1977.

Meyers, Carol L., and Eric M. Meyers. Haggai, Zechariah 1-8. AB. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987.

Mitchell, H. G. A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah. ICC. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912.

Petersen, David L. Haggai and Zechariah 1-8. London: SCM, 1985.

Rudolph, Wilhelm. Haggai—Sacharja 1-8—Sacharja 9-14—Maleachi. KAT. Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1976.

Sellin, D. Ernst. Das Zwlfprophetenbuch. KAT. Leipzig: Deichert, 1922.

Smith, Ralph L. Micah—Malachi. WBC. Waco, Tex.: Word, 1984.

Stuhlmueller, Carroll. Haggai & Zechariah. ITC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Verhoef, Pieter A. The Books of Haggai and Malachi. NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.

Wolff, Hans Walter. Dodekapropheten 6. Haggai. BKAT. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1986.


Ackroyd, Peter R. “The Book of Haggai and Zechariah 1-8,” JJS 3 (1952): 151-56.

________. “Studies in the Book of Haggai,” JJS 2 (1951): 163-76; JJS 3 (1952): 1-13.

________. “Two Old Testament Historical Problems of the Early Persian Period,” JNES 17 (1958): 13-27.

Carroll, Robert P. “Eschatological Delay in the Prophetic Tradition,” ZAW 94 (1982): 47-58.

Christensen, Duane L. “Impulse and Design in the Book of Haggai,” JETS 35 (1992): 445-56.

Clark, David J. “Problems in Haggai 2:15-19,” BT 34 (1983):432-39.

Dumbrell, W. J. “Kingship and Temple in the Post-Exilic Period,” RTR 37 (1978): 33-42.

Eybers, I. H. “The Rebuilding of the Temple According to Haggai and Zechariah,” OTWSA 13-14 (1970-71): 15-26.

Hamerton-Kelly, R. G. “The Temple and the Origins of Jewish Apocalyptic,” VT 20 (1976): 1-15.

Japhet, Sara. “Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel Against the Background of the Historical and Religious Tendencies of Ezra-Nehemiah,” ZAW 94 (1982): 66-98.

Kessler, John A. “The Shaking of the Nations: An Eschatological View,” JETS 30 (1987): 159-66.

Koch, Klaus. “Haggai’s unreines Volk,” ZAW 79 (1967): 52-66.

Lust, J. “The Identification of Zerubbabel with Sheshbassar,” ETL 63 (1987): 90-95.

McCarthy, Dennis J. “An Installation Genre?” JBL 90 (1971): 31-41.

Mason, R. A. “The Purpose of the ‘Editorial Framework’ of the Book of Haggai, “ VT 27 (1977): 413-21.

May, Herbert G. “‘This People’ and ‘This Nation’ in Haggai,” VT 18 (1968): 190-97.

North, Francis S. “Critical Analysis of the Book of Haggai,” ZAW 68 (1956): 25-46.

Petersen, David L. “Zerubbabel and Jerusalem Temple Reconstruction,” CBQ 36 (1974): 366-72.

Pierce, Ronald W. “Literary Connectors and a Haggai/Zechariah/Malachi Corpus,” JETS 27 (1984): 277-89.

________. “A Thematic Development of the Haggai/Zechariah/ Malachi Corpus,” JETS 27 (1984): 401-11.

Radday, Yehuda T., and Moshe A. Pollatschek. “Vocabulary Richness in Post-exilic Prophetic Books,” ZAW 92 (1980): 333-46.

Rainey, Anson. “The Satrapy ‘Beyond the River,’” AJBA 1/2 (1969): 51-78.

Siebeneck, Robert T. “The Messianism of Aggeus and Proto-Zacharias,” CBQ 19 (1957): 312-28.

Steck, Odil H. “Zu Haggai 1:2-11,” ZAW 83 (1971): 355-79.

Van Rooy, H. F. “Eschatology and Audience: The Eschatology of Haggai,” Old Testament Essays 1/1 (1988): 49-63.

Wessels, W. J. “Haggai from a Historian’s Point of View,” Old Testament Essays 1/2 (1988): 47-61.

Wolf, Herbert. “‘The Desire of all Nations’ in Haggai 2:7: Messianic or Not?” JETS 19 (1976): 97-102.


    Commentaries and Special Studies

Amsler, Samuel. Agge, Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14. CAT. Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestl, 1981.

Baldwin, Joyce G. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. London: Tyndale, 1972.

Barker, Kenneth L. “Zechariab.” In EBC, vol. 7. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Chary, Theophane. Agge-Zacharie-Malachie. Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969.

Deissler, A. Zwlf Propheten III. Zefanja, Haggai, Sacharia, Maleachi. Würzburg: Echter, 1988.

Elliger, Karl. Die Propheten Nahum, Habakuk, Zephanja, Haggai, Sacharja, Maleachi. ATD. Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982.

Horst, F. Die zwlf kleinen Propheten, Nahum bis Maleachi. HAT 14. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1964.

Jansma, Taeke. Inquiry into the Hebrew Text and the Ancient Versions of Zechariah IX-XIV. Leiden: Brill, 1949.

Jeremias, Christian. Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja. Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1977.

Keil, C. F. The Twelve Minor Prophets. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1871.

Lacocque, Andr. Zacharie 9-14. CAT. Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestl, 1981.

Lamarche, Paul. Zacharie IX-XIV. Structure Littraire et Messianisme. Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1961.

Leupold, H. C. Exposition of Zechariah. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1971.

Mason, Rex. The Books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. CBC. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1977.

Meyers, Carol, and Eric M. Meyers. Haggai, Zechariah 1-8. AB. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987.

Mitchell, H. G. A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah. ICC. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912.

Nowack, W. Die kleinen Propheten. HAT. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1903.

Otzen, Benedikt. Studien über Deuterosacharja. ATD 6. Copenhagen: Prostand Apud Munksgaard, 1964.

Petersen, David L. Haggai and Zechariah 1-8. London: SCM, 1985.

Petitjean, Albert. Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie. Paris: J. Gabalda, 1969.

Rignell, L. G. Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharia. Lund: Gleerup, 1950.

Rothstein, J. W. Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja. BWAT 8. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1910.

Rudolph, Wilhelm. Haggai-Sacharja 1-8—Sacharia 9-14—Maleachi. KAT. Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1976.

Saeb, Magne. Sacharja 9-14. Untersuchungen von Text und Form. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1969.

Sellin, D. Ernst. Das Zwlfprophetenbuch. Leipzig: A. Deichert, 1922.

Seybold, Klaus. Bilder zum Tempelbau. Die Visionen des Propheten Sacharja. Stuttgart: KBW, 1974.

Stuhlmueller, Carroll. Haggai and Zechariah. ITC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Unger, Merrill F. Zechariah. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963.

Van Hoonacker, A. Les douze petits Prophtes. Paris: Librairie Victor Lecoffre, 1908.


Allan, Nigel. “The Identity of the Jerusalem Priesthood During the Exile,” HeyJ 23 (1982): 259-69.

Barker, Margaret. “The Evil in Zechariah,” HeyJ 19 (1978): 12-27.

________ “The Two Figures in Zechariah,” HeyJ 18 (1977): 38-46.

Bartnicki, Roman. “Das Zitat van Zack IX, 9-10 und die Tiere im Bericht van Matthus über dem Einzug Jesu in Jerusalem (Mt XXI, I-II),” NovT 18 (1976): 161-66.

Carroll, Robert P. “Twilight of Prophecy or Dawn of Apocalyptic?” ISOT 14 (1979): 3-35.

Chernus, Ira. “‘A Wall of Fire Round About’: The Development of a Theme in Rabbinic Midrash,” JJS 30 (1979): 18-84.

Clark, David J. “The Case of the Vanishing Angel,” BT 33 (1982): 213-18.

________ “Discourse Structure in Zechariah 7:1-8:23 (Comparison with Haggai; Appendix: Structural Layout),” BT 36 (1985): 328-35.

Crossan, John Dominic. “Redaction and Citation in Mark 11:9-10 and 11:17,” BR 17 (1972): 33-50.

Dahood, Mitchell. “Zachariah 9:1 ‘n ‘dm,” CBQ 25 (1963): 123-24.

Delcor, Matthias. “Les Allusions Alexandre le Grand dans Zach 9:1-8,” VT 1 (1951): 110-24.

________ “Deux Passages Difficiles: Zach 12:11 et 11:13,” VT 3 (1953): 67-77.

________ “Hinweise auf das Samaritanische Schisma in Alten Testament,” ZAW 74 (1962): 281-91.

________ “Un Probleme de Critique Textuelle et d’Exegese: Zach 12:10,” RB 58 (1951): 189-99.

________ “Les Sources du Deutero-Zacharie et Ses Procedes d’Emprunt,” RB 59 (1952): 385-411.

Draper, J. A. “The Heavenly Feast of Tabernacles: Revelation 7:1-17,” JSNT 19 (1983): 133-47.

Driver, G. R. “Old Problems Re-examined,” ZAW 80 (1968): 174-83.

Duff, Paul Brooks. “The March of the Divine Warrior and the Advent of the Greco-Roman King: Mark’s Account of Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem,” JBL 111 (1992): 55-71.

Eichrodt, Walther. “Vom Symbol zum Typos: Ein Beitrag zur Sacharja-Exegese Zech 1:76:9,” TLZ 13 (1957): 509-22.

Feigin, Samuel. “Some Notes on Zechariah 11:4-17,” JBL 44 (1925): 203- 13.

Finley, Thomas J. “The Sheep Merchants of Zechariah 11,” GTJ 3 (1982): 31-65.

Galling, Kurt. “Die Exilswende in der Sicht des Propheten Sacharja,” VT 2 (1952): 18-36.

Good, Robert M. “Zechariah’s Second Night Vision,” Bib 63 (1982): 56-59.

Gordon, R. P. “The Targum to the Minor Prophets and the Dead Sea Texts: Textual and Exegetical Notes,” RQum 8 (1974): 425-29.

________ “Targum Variant Agrees with Welihausen!” ZAW 87 (1975): 218-19.

Greenfield, Jonas C. “The Aramean God Rammn/Rimmn,” IEJ 26 (1976): 195-98.

Halpern, Baruch. “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” CBQ 40 (1978): 167-90.

Hamerton-Kelly, R. B. “The Temple and the Origins of Jewish Apocalyptic,” VT 20 (1970): 1-15.

Hanson, Paul D. “Zechariah 9 and the Recapitulation of an Ancient Ritual Pattern,” JBL 92 (1973): 37-59.

Harrelson, Walter. “The Trial of the High Priest Joshua: Zechariah 3,” Erlsr 16 (1982): 116*-24*.

Hartle, James A. “The Literary Unity of Zechariah,” JETS 35 (1992): 145-57.

Hill, Andrew E. “Dating Second Zechariah: A Linguistic Reexamination,” HAR 6 (1982): 105-34.

Japhet, Sara. “Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel,” ZAW 95 (1983): 218-29.

Jones, Douglas R. “A Fresh Interpretation of Zechariah IX-XI,” VT 12 (1962): 241-59.

Joubert, W. H. “The Determination of the Contents of Zechariah 1:72:17 Through a Structural Analysis,” OTWSA 20-21 (1977-78): 66-82.

Kline, Meredith G. “The Structure of the Book of Zechariah,” JETS 34 (1991): 179-93.

Kloos, Carola J. L. “Zech. II 12: Really a Crux Interpretum?” VT 25 (1975): 729-36.

Le Bas, Edwin E. “Zechariah’s Climax to the Career of the Corner-Stone,” PEQ 83 (1951): 139-55.

________ “Zechariah’s Enigmatical Contribution to the Corner-Stone,” PEQ 82 (1950): 102-22.

Lipiski, E. “Recherches sur le livre de Zacharie,” VT 20 (1970): 25-55.

Luke, K. “The Thirty Pieces of Silver (Zch. 11:12f.),” Indian Theological Studies 19 (1982): 15-32.

Malamat, A. “The Historical Settings of Two Biblical Prophecies of the Nations,” IEJ 1 (1950-51): 149-59.

Mason, Rex A. “The Relation of Zech 9-14 to Proto-Zechariah,” ZAW 88 (1976): 227-39.

________ “Some Echoes of the Preaching in the Second Temple?: Tradition Elements in Zechariah 1-8,” ZAW 96 (1984): 221-35.

May, Herbert G. “A Key to the Interpretation of Zechariah’s Visions,” JBL 57 (1938): 173-84.

North, Robert. “Zechariah’s Seven-spout Lampstand,” Bib 51 (1970): 183-206.

Oswalt, John N. “Recent Studies in Old Testament Eschatology and Apocalyptic,” JETS 24 (1981): 289-301.

Patsch, H. “Der Einzug Jesu in Jerusalem,” ZTK 68 (1971): 1-26.

Petersen, David L. “Zerubbabel and Jerusalem Temple Reconstruction,” CBQ 36 (1974): 366-72.

________ “Zechariah’s Visions: A Theological Perspective,” VT 34 (1984): 195-206.

Portnoy, Stephen L., and David L. Petersen. “Biblical Texts and Statistical Analysis: Zechariah and Beyond,” JBL 103 (1984): 11-21.

Radday, Yehuda T., and Dieter Wickmann. “The Unity of Zechariah Examined in the Light of Statistical Linguistics,” ZAW 87 (1975): 30-55.

Richter, Hans-Friedemann. “Die Pferde in Den Nachtgesichten des Sacharja,” ZAW 98 (1986): 96-100.

Ringgren, Helmer. “Behold Your King Comes,” VT 24 (1974): 207-11.

Robinson, Donald F. “Suggested Analysis of Zechariah 1-8,” ATR 33 (1951): 65-70.

Ruethy, Albert E. “‘Sieben Augen auf Einem Stein,’ Sach 3:9,” TLZ 13 (1957): 522-29.

Saeb, Magne. “Die deuterosacharjanische Frage,” ST 23 (1969): 115-40.

Sinclair, Lawrence A. “Redaction of Zechariah 1-8,” BR 20 (1975): 36-47.

Strand, Kenneth A. “An Overlooked Old Testament Background to Revelation 11:1,” AUSS 22 (1984): 317-25.

________ “The Two Olive Trees of Zechariah 4 and Revelation 11,” AUSS 20 (1982): 257-61.

Thomas, D. Winton. “Zechariah 10:11a,” ExpTim 66 (1955): 272-73.

Tidwell, N. L. A. “W ‘mar (Zech 3:5) and the Genre of Zechariah’s Fourth Vision,” JBL 94 (1975): 343-55.

Torrey, C. C. “The Foundry of the Second Temple at Jerusalem,” JBL 55 (1936): 247-60.

________ “The Messiah Son of Ephraim,” JBL 66 (1947): 253-77.

Tournay, R. “Zacharie XII-XIV et l’histoire d’Isral,” RB 81 (1974): 355-94.

Treves, Marco. “Conjecture Concerning the Date and Authorship of Zechariah IX-XIV,” VT 13 (1963): 196-207.

Tuell, Steven S. “The Southern and Eastern Borders of Abar-Nahara,” BASOR 284 (1991): 51-57.

VanderKam, James C. “Joshua the High Priest and the Interpretation of Zechariah 3,” CBQ 53 (1991): 553-70.

van Zijl, P. J. “A Possible Interpretation of Zech. 9:1 and the function of ‘the eye’ (ayin) in Zechariah,” JNSL 1 (1971): 59-67.

Villaln, Jos R. “Sources Vetero-Testamentaires de la Doctrine Qumranienne des Deux Messies,” RevQ 8 (1972): 53-63.

Zolli, Eugenio.” Eyn Adam,” VT 5 (1955): 90-92.


    Commentaries and Special Studies

Alden, Robert L. “Malachi.” In EBC, vol. 7. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Baldwin, Joyce G. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. London: Tyndale, 1972.

Chary, Theophane. Agge-Zacharie-Malachie. Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969.

Deissler, A. Zwlf Propheten III. Zefanja, Haggai, Sacharia, Maleachi. Wurzburg: Echter, 1988.

Deutsch, Richard R. Calling God’s People to Obedience. A Commentary on the Book of Malachi. ITC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.

Elliger, Karl. Die Propheten Nahum, Habakuk, Zephanja, Haggai, Sacharja, Maleachi. ATD 25. Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982.

Glazier-McDonald, Beth. Malachi, The Divine Messenger. SBL Diss. Series 98. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987.

Hitzig, F. Die zwlf kleinen Propheten. Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1881.

Horst, F. Die zwlf kleinen Propheten, Nahum bis Maleachi. HAT 14. Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1964.

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. Malachi. God’s Unchanging Love. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984.

Laetsch, Theodore. Minor Prophets. St. Louis: Concordia, 1956.

Marti, Karl. Das Dodekapropheten. KHAT XIII. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1904.

Mason, Rex. The Books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. CBC. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1977.

Nowack, W. Die kleinen Propheten. HAT. Gttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1903.

Orelli, C. von. The Twelve Minor Prophets. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1893.

Rudolph, Wilhelm. Haggai-Sacharja 1-8—Sacharja 9-14—Maleachi. KAT. Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1976.

Smith, John M. P. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Malachi. ICC. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912.

Smith, Ralph L. Micah-Malachi. WBC. Waco, Tex.: Word, 1984.

Van Hoonacker, A. Les Douze Petits Prophtes. Paris: Librairie Victor Lecoffre, 1908.

Verhoef, Pieter A. The Books of Haggai and Malachi. NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.

Vuilleumier, Ren. Malachie. CAT. Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestl, 1981.


Baldwin, J. G. “Malachi 1:11 and the Worship of the Nations in the Old Testament,” TynBul 23 (1972): 117-24.

Braun, Roddy. “MalachiA Catechism for Times of Disappointment,” CurTM 4 (1977): 297-303.

Clendenen, E. Ray. “The Structure of Malachi: A Textlinguistic Study,” CTR 2 (1987): 3-17.

Drinkard, Joel F., Jr. “The Socio-Historical Setting of Malachi,” RevEx 84 (1987): 383-90.

Dumbrell, William J. “Malachi and the Ezra-Nehemiah Reforms,” RTR 35 (1976): 42-52.

Fischer, James A. “Notes on the Literary Form and Message of Malachi,” CBQ 34 (1972): 315-20.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “More About Elijah Coming First,” JBL 104 (1985): 295-96.

Freedman, David B. “An Unnoted Support for a Variant to the MT of Mal 3:5,” JBL 98 (1979): 405-06.

Fuller, Russell. “Text-Critical Problems in Malachi 2:10-16,” JBL 110 (1991): 47-57.

Harrison, George W. “Covenant Unfaithfulness in Malachi 2:1-16,” CTR 2 (1987): 63-72.

Jones, David Clyde. “A Note on the LXX of Malachi 2:16,” JBL 109 (1990): 683-85.

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. “Divorce in Malachi 2:10-16,” CTR 2 (1987): 73-84.

________ “The Promise of the Arrival of Elijah in Malachi and the Gospels,” GTJ 3 (1982): 221-33.

Keown, Gerald L. “Messianism in the Book of Malachi,” RevEx 84 (1987): 443-51.

Klein, George L. “An Introduction to Malachi,” CTR 2 (1987): 19-37.

McKenzie, Steven L., and Howard N. Wallace, “Covenant Themes in Malachi,” CBQ 45 (1983): 549-63.

Ogden, Graham S. “The Use of Figurative Language in Malachi 2:10-16,” BT 39 (1988): 223-30.

Robinson, Alan. “God, the Refiner of Silver,” CBQ 11 (1949): 188-90.

Rudolph, W. “Zu Mal 2:10-16,” ZAW 93 (1981): 85-90.

Scalise, Pamela. “To Fear or not to Fear: Questions of Reward and Punishment in Malachi 2:174:2,” RevEx 84 (1987): 409-18.

Schreiner, Stefan. “Mischehen-Ehebruch-Ehescheidung,” ZAW 91 (1979): 207-28.

Smith, Ralph. “The Shape of Theology in the Book of Malachi,” SWJT 30 (1987): 22-27.

Snyman, S. D. “Antitheses in the Book of Malachi,” JNSL 10 (1990): 173-78.

Swetnam, James. “Malachi 1:11: An Interpretation,” CBQ 31 (1969): 200-209.

Tate, Marvin E. “Questions for Priests and People in Malachi 1:22:16,” RevEx 84 (1987): 391-407.

Thomas, D. Winton. “The Root SN’ in Hebrew, and the Meaning of QDRNYT in Malachi 3:14,” JJS 1 (1948-49): 182-88.

Van Selms, A. “The Inner Cohesion of the Book of Malachi,” QTWSA 13-14 (1970-71): 27-40.

Verhoef, P. A. “Some Notes on Malachi 1:1 1,” OTWSA 9 (1966): 163-72.

Watts, J. D. W. “Introduction to the Book of Malachi,” RevEx 84 (1987): 373-81.

Wendland, Ernst. “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi,” BT 36 (1985): 108-21.

810 Bruce Dahlberg, “Studies in the Book of Malachi” (Ph.D. Diss., Columbia Univ., 1963), 180-222. I owe this reference to my colleague, Mark Rooker.

811 Hans H. Spoer, “Some New Considerations Towards the Dating of the Book of Malachi,” JQR 30(1908):167-86.

812 For overall surveys of the history of Persia from the reign of Darius through that of Artaxerxes I, see A. T. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1948), 107-354; G. B. Gray and M. Cary, “The Reign of Darius,” CAH, 4:173-228; J. A. R. Munro, “Xerxes’ Invasion of Greece,” CAH, 4:268-316; and “The Deliverance of Greece,” CAH, 4:317-46; Ephraim Stern, “The Persian Empire and the Political and Social History of Palestine in the Persian Period,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism. Introduction: The Persian Period, ed. W. D. Davies and Louis Finkelstein (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1984), 70-87; Peter R. Ackroyd, Israel Under Babylon and Persia (Oxford: Oxford Univ., 1970); Edwin M. Yamauchi, Persia and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 129-278.

813 This identification was put beyond doubt many years ago by Robert D. Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament (London: Marshall Brothers, 1926), 79-80.

814 For this, see Peter R. Ackroyd, “The Jewish Community in Palestine in the Persian Period,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, 130-61.

815 Stern, “The Persian Empire and the Political and Social History of Palestine in the Persian Period,” 73.

816 Julian Morgenstern postulates a Jewish rebellion in 485 led by a king Menahem and suggests that the Ezra 4:6 reference is in regard to the putting down of this rebellion with the collaboration of the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and Philistines. See his series of studies entitled “Jerusalem—485 B.C.” in HUCA 27(1956):101-79; HUCA 28(1957):15-47; HUCA 31 (1960):1-29; and “Further Light from the Book of Isaiah upon the Catastrophe of 485 B.C.,” HUCA 37 (1966):1-28, esp. 3-4.

817 Anson Rainey, “The Satrapy ‘Beyond the River,’“ AJBA 1(1969):58, 62-63.

818 For archaeological and inscriptional information, see Morton Smith, “Jewish Religious Life in the Persian Period,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, esp. 233-50.

819 If, as I argue below, Malachi dates from 470 or so, then the problems adduced in Ezra were already flagrant many years earlier. See B. Dahlberg, “Studies in the Book of Malachi,” 202.

820 B. Dahlberg, “Studies in the Book of Malachi,” 202.

821 Philip C. Hammond, The NabataeansTheir History, Culture and Archaeology, SMA 37 (Gothenburg: Paul Astrms, 1973), 13.

822 Spoer, “Some New Considerations Towards the Dating of the Book of Malachi,” 182-83.

823 Cf. Ben Sirach 48:10, which quotes Malachi 3:23-24. Ben Sirach was thought to have been written c. 180 B.C. Patrick W. Skehan, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, AB 39 (New York: Doubleday, 1987), 10, 534.

824 Ackroyd, “The Jewish Community in Palestine in the Persian Period,” 155-58.

825 So, for example, Otto Kaiser, Introduction to the Old Testament (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975), 285-86.

826 For a brilliant study arguing for an even longer overlap and closer connection between Ezra and Nehemiah, see Leslie McFall, “Was Nehemiah Contemporary with Ezra in 458 B.C.?” WTJ 53(1991):263-93.

827 W. J. Dumbrell makes a strong case for Malachi’s role as a stimulus for the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah in “Malachi and the Ezra-Nehemiah Reforms,” RTR 35 (1976):42-52.

828 For linguistic evidence leading to this conclusion see Andrew E. Hill, “Dating the Book of Malachi: A Linguistic Re-examination,” in The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth, ed. Carol L. Meyers and M. O’Connor (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1983), 77-89.

829 For a helpful statement concerning the strategic canonical location of Malachi, see J. D. W. Watts, “Introduction to the Book of Malachi,” Rev Ex 84 (1987):373-74.

830 Ronald W. Pierce has drawn attention to the literary and thematic linkages between Haggai-Zechariah, on the one hand, and Malachi, on the other, thus supporting the canonical shape as a deliberate strategy (“Literary Connectors and a Haggai/Zechariah/Malachi Corpus,” JETS 27 [1984]: 277-89).

831 Thus Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament, An Introduction (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965), 440-41.

832 Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament As Scripture (London: SCM, 1979), 491-92.

833 Robert L. Alden, “Malachi,” The EBC, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 7:704-5.

834 Pieter A. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi. NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 166-68.

835 Ernst Wendland, “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi,” BT 36 (1985):108-21; S. D. Snyman, “Antitheses in the Book of Malachi,” JNSL 16 (1990): 173-78.

836 Wendland, “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi,” 112.

837 Alden, “Malachi,” 7:704.

838 John M. P. Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Malachi. ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 4.

839 Georg Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament, (London: SPCK, 1970), 470.

840 Friedrich Horst, Die Zwlf kleinen Propheten, Nahum bis Maleachi. HAT 14 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1964,) 261.

841 Eissfeldt, The Old Testament, An Introduction, 442.

842 Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament, 470.

843 Smith, A Commentary on Malachi, 81.

844 Roddy Braun thus speaks of Malachi’s approach as “the catechetical device of the question and answer format” (Malachi—A Catechism for Times of Disappointment,” CurTM 4 [1977]:299).

845 For a brief overview of form-critical analyses of Malachi, see Hans Jochen Boecker,” Bemerkungen zur formgeschichtlichen Terminologie des Buches Maleachi,” ZAW 78 (1966):78-79; see also Beth Glazier-McDonald, Malachi, The Divine Messenger, SBL Diss. Series 98 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987), 19; Gerhard Wallis, “Wesen und Structur der Botschaft Maleachis,” in Das Ferne und nahe Wort, ed. F. Maass (Berlin: A. Tpelmann, 1967), 229-37. Watts analyzes the book according to some sixteen units that he calls “speech acts.” In line with modern “reader-centered” criticism he suggests that these “speech acts” contain gapping designed to draw the reader into the act by making him part of the process of achieving meaning. The subjectivity of such a method makes it risky, but Watts does provide some stimulating reaction to the text (“Introduction to the Book of Malachi,” 376-79). Van Selms (arbitrarily he admits) divides the book into eight units, viz., 1:1-5, 6-14; 2:1-9, 10-16; 2:17-3:5, 6-12, 13-18, 19-24; A. (“The Inner Cohesion of the Book of Malachi,” Ou-Testamentiese Werkgemeenskap van Suid-Afrika 13-14 [1970-71]:29.

846 Wendland, “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi,” 113.

847 James A. Fischer, “Notes on the Literary Form and Message of Malachi,” CBQ 34 (1972):315-20.

848 See n. 26.

849 For an excellent analysis of the theology of Malachi, see Ralph L. Smith, “The Shape of Theology in the Book of Malachi,” SoJT 30 (1987):22-27. Smith suggests four major themes: (1) concern about covenant; (2) concern about the cult; (3) concern about ethical conduct; and (4) concern about the future.

850 Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, 169.

851 Ralph L. Smith, Micah-Malachi, WBC (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1984), 300.

852 Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament As Scripture (London: SCM, 1979), 491-92.

853 Richard R. Deutsch, Calling God’s People to Obedience. A Commentary on the Book of Malachi, ITC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 75-76. Dumbrell notes that Deuteronomy, like Malachi, is addressed to Israel and thus the prophet betrays his Deuteronomic orientation. He also sees “Israel” as a term of “prophetic ideal” to underline the oneness of the people of God; W. J. Dumbrell, “Malachi and the Ezra-Nehemiah Reforms,” RTR 35(1976):44-45.

854 Georg Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament (London: SPCK, 1970), 469.

855 Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament, An Introduction (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965), 441.

856 Dumbrell, “Malachi and the Ezra-Nehemiah Reforms,” 43; cf. John M. P. Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Malachi, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 9: “As the name stands, it can only mean ‘my messenger.’ This is a very unlikely appellation for a parent to bestow upon a child.”

857 Ren Vuilleumier, Malachie, CAT (Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestl, 1981), 224 n. 7.

858 Wilhelm Rudolph, Haggai-Sacharja 1-8-Sacharja 9-14-Maleachi, KAT (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1976), 247.

859 Theophane Chary, Agge-Zacharie-Malachie (Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969), 233.

860 Thus J. M. P. Smith, A Commentary on Malachi, 9.

861 Rudolph, Haggai-Sacharja 1-8-Sacharja 9-14-Maleachi, 247-48.

862 William L. Moran, “The Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Love of God in Deuteronomy,” CBQ 25 (1963):77-87.

863 For the connection between covenant love and election or “choice” (rj^B*, bahar), see Pieter A. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 196-97.

864 E. Jenni, THAT, 2:835 s.v. anc; Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, TOTC (London: Tyndale, 1972), 223.

865 This would include the campaigns of Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.) and his successors, especially Nabonidus, who is thought to have ravaged Edom from time to time from his Arabian base at Teima; J. R. Bartlett, “The Moabites and Edomites,” in Peoples of Old Testament Times, ed. D. J. Wiseman (Oxford: Clarendon, 1973), 243-44. Cf. John Bright, A History of Israel, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981), 377-78.

866 Rex Mason, The Books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, CBC (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1977), 141.

867 For the former (Israel) see, e.g., Vuilleumier, Malachie, 226. Most scholars attribute the doxology here to Israel.

868 Theophane Chary, Agge-Zacharie-Malachie (Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969), 238. Cf. Paul Kalluveettil, Declaration and Covenant, AnBib 88 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1982), 133; Steven L. McKenzie and Howard N. Wallace, “Covenant Themes in Malachi,” CBQ 45 (1983):557-58.

869 Kalluveettil, Declaration and Covenant, 10-15, 120-21; Dennis J. McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant, AnBib 21 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963), 163-64.

870 DeVaux shows that there is no connection between sacrifice as “food” for YHWH in the OT and prevailing understanding in the ancient Near East (Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institutions [London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1961], 433-35.

871 Glazier-McDonald suggests the phrase means, “since all this was your doing,” that is, “from your hands” is tracing the fault to the wicked priests (Malachi: The Divine Messenger, SBL Series 98 [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987], 54). The line seems better understood, however, as a protasis to an asyndetic apodosis: “Since you have made such offerings, how can He receive you with favor?” So Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, TOTC (London: Tyndale, 1972), 226.

872 At Qumran, in fact, a “door-closer” came to be viewed as a pious worshiper who refused to offer vain sacrifice. So Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “The Translation of Damascus Document VI, 11-14.” RevQ 7(1971):553-56.

873 This view, in fact, was held by many older scholars. See, e.g., W. Nowack, Die kleinen Propheten, HAT III/4 (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1903), 430; Karl Marti, Das Dodekapropheton, KHAT XIII (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1904), 464. For a modern expression of that opinion, see Robert C. Dentan, “The Book of Malachi,” IB 6 (New York: Abingdon, 1956), 1128-29.

874 So John M. P. Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Malachi, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 30. James Swetnam, in fact, holds that Malachi is referring to the Jewish diaspora community whose prayers and other expressions of worship were tantamount to sacrifice (“Malachi 1. 11: An Interpretation,” CBQ [1969]:206-7). The phrase “among the nations” seems to preclude this, however.

875 Friedrich Horst, Die Zwlf kleinen Propheten. Nahum bis Maleachi, HAT 14 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1964), 267.

876 Th. C. Vriezen, “How to Understand Malachi 1:11,” in Grace Upon Grace, ed. James I. Cook (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 132; Th. Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 245. Baldwin points to a number of future, indeed, eschatological terms such as “from the rising of the sun to its setting”; (Malachi 1:11 and the Worship of the Nations in the Old Testament,” TynBul 23 [1972]:122-23.

877 Indeed, this very fact has led many scholars to see v. 11 as a poorly joined interpolation. See, e.g., Elliger, who views 1:11 (as well as 1:13-14; 2:2, 7) as secondary (Die Propheten Nahum, Habakuk, Zephanja, Haggai, Sacharja, Maleachi, ATD 25 (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982], 195, 198.

878 Vriezen, “How to Understand Malachi 1:11,” 134-35.

879 Dumbrell draws attention to the Deuteronomic concept of the divine name as an indication of ownership and sovereignty and to Malachi’s use of this “name theology”; (“Malachi and the Ezra-Nehemiah Reforms,” RTR 35 [1976]:45-46.

880 For another analysis suggesting parallels along other lines, see E. Ray Clendenen, “The Structure of Malachi: A Textlinguistic Study,” CTR 2 (1987):8-9.

881 Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (London: SCM, 1967), 2:40-45.

882 A. Van Hoonacker, Les Douze Petits Prophtes (Paris: Librairie Victor Lecoffre, 1908), 714.

883 For the rare form ha*l*T=m^ cf. GKC, 37c.

884 Klaus Baltzer, The Covenant Formulary (Oxford; Basil Blackwell, 1971), 66-68.

885 Clendenen, “The Structure of Malachi: A Textlinguistic Study,” 9.

886 Ernst Wendland, “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi,” BT 36 (1985):117.

887 Steven L. McKenzie and Howard N. Wallace separate 1:6-14 from 2:1-9 entirely, taking 2:1 as a new heading. The latter unit itself they divide between 2:1-4, a command threatening the priests with a curse for disobedience, and 2:5-9, YHWH’s covenant with Levi. They take v. 4 as the hinge, one that allows vv. 5-9 to be the grounds for vv. 1-3. See their “Covenant Themes in Malachi,” CBQ 45 (1983):550.

888 R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 353-55.

889 One cannot overlook the close connection between 2:2 and 1:6, however, for both speak of honoring the name of YHWH, the latter passage with reference to the fifth commandment. Thus the hw`x=m! of 2:1 may be explicit to that extent. See George W. Harrison, “Covenant Unfaithfulness in Malachi 2:1-16,” CTR 2 (1987):65-66.

890 As Verhoef says, “God’s ‘command’ for the priests is synonymous with his covenant with Levi, his institution of the priestly office”; (The Books of Haggai and Malachi, NICOT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 238). This is why hw`x=m! should be translated in its technical sense and not as “decree,” “announcement,” and the like.

891 Delbert R. Hillers, Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets, Bib Or 16 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1964).

892 As Chary points out, the use of the verb jl^v* in the piel (“I will send”) and the irreversible nature of the pronouncement of blessings and curses guarantee the effect. It is as good as done (T. Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 249.

893 Herbert C. Brichto, The Problem of “Curse” in the Hebrew Bible, JBL Mon. Series 13 (Philadelphia: Society of Biblical Literature, 1963), 133.

894 For a good discussion of the text here see Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger, 65-68.

895 A. A. Macintosh, “A Consideration of Hebrew rug,” VT 19 (1969):476-77.

896 Verhoef, The Books of Haggai, Malachi, 242.

897 Many scholars maintain that because Malachi makes no distinction between priests and Levites, he must be dependent on Deuteronomic rather than Priestly (P) sources, for the latter argue for a superiority of the (Zadokite) priests over the Levites who are “a subordinate order who merely assisted the priests”; So Roddy Braun, “Malachi—A Catechism for Times of Disappointment,” CurTM 4 (1977):298. Besides permitting a dating of Malachi between Dtr (c. 550) and P (c. 450), this interpretation of the prophet seems to put him on the side of the “visionary idealists” (to use Hanson’s terms) against the “hierocratic realists.” The former champion the ancient Aaronic priesthood, whereas the latter endorse the later (originally non-Levitical) Zadokite priesthood. This is very wide of the mark, however, for as Hanson admits, the biblical traditions themselves link Zadok with Phinehas and, hence, with Aaron (The Dawn of Apocalyptic [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976], 220-28). Malachi is not taking sides in some hypothetical struggle among priestly contenders but is roundly condemning both priests and Levites for their perfidy. For a good review of the issue, see Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger, 73-80.

898 Baldwin points out that this is the first reference to a priest as a messenger of God. Perhaps the epithet derives from a play on the prophet’s own name because of his preoccupation with the messenger concept (cf. 3:1) (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 236).

899 As Verhoef puts it, “In its essence and according to its intent, the covenant relationship is unbreakable. But when one party does not live up to his obligations, the other party may take disciplinary steps” (The Books of Haggai and Malachi, 253).

900 Again, there is no real evidence for the view that Ezekiel was promoting a Zadokite priesthood as opposed to the Levites. He is simply judging between righteous and unrighteous ministers no matter their linkage to Levi and Aaron. The fact that Ezekiel calls the Zadokites “the priests the Levites” (44:15) makes this clear. De Vaux is no doubt correct when he takes the Levites of Ezek. 44:10 to be those of local shrines who had collaborated in syncretistic worship, whereas those of 44:15 were the clergy of Jerusalem who had by and large remained faithful to YHWH. He also notes that both groups of Levites are called priests in Ezek. 40:45-46; so the priest-Levite dichotomy simply does not exist in Ezekiel in the antithetical manner advocated by many scholars. See R. deVaux, Ancient Israel, 364-65; so also Nigel Allan, “The Identity of the Jerusalem Priesthood During the Exile,” HeyJ 23 (1982):260-61.

901 Thus Pieter A. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 265-66, contra Baldwin who, with many others, understands the father to be Abraham; Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, TOTC (London: Tyndale, 1972), 237. This is ruled out by the parallel, “Did not one God create us?” Cf. George W. Harrison, “Covenant Unfaithfulness in Malachi 2:1-16,” CTR 2 (1987):69. Ogden takes the father to be Levi and the covenant violation of vv. 10-16 to be the rupture of the covenant of Levi of the previous passage. To support this he must take the divorce motif figuratively and must interpret Judah as the priests of Judah, the “wife of your youth” as Israel in her early days, and “godly offspring” (v. 15) as the Levitical descent; (“The Use of Figurative Language in Malachi 2:10-16,” BT 39 [1988]:223-30. Although there is indeed a great deal of figurative language, especially double entendre, throughout, the fact that the passage on the whole reflects a broader perspective than the cultic alone and that Ezra and Nehemiah had to deal with the issue of literal divorce just a few years after Malachi leads one to conclude that literal divorce is in view here.

902 Theodore Laetsch, Minor Prophets (St. Louis: Concordia, 1956), 524-25.

903 McKenzie and Wallace lean to the view that this is the patriarchal covenant but concede that the reference is ambiguous (“Covenant Themes in Malachi,” CBQ 45 [1983]:552).

904 See Stefan Schreiner, “Mischehen-Ehebruch-Ehescheidung. Betrachtungen zu Mal 2:10-16,” ZAW 91 (1979):207-28; Clemens Locher, “Altes und Neues zu Maleachi 2:10-16,” in Melanges Dominique Barthelemy, ed. P. Casetti et al. (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1981), 241-71.

905 Keil correctly points out that Jerusalem is singled out because it was the capital of the whole nation. Syntactically one could make a case for the inclusion of Jerusalem as an epexegetical element, that is, “abomination has been committed in Israel, specifically in Jerusalem (the cultic center)” (Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. The Twelve Minor Prophets, [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1871], 2:449.

906 One should note that Malachi, like Ezra, describes such intermarriage as an “abomination” (hb*u@oT).

907 Williamson says regarding Ezra’s approach: “He taught, and the community accepted, an interpretation of the law according to its ‘spirit,’ as he understood it. We may not agree with certain aspects of Ezra’s interpretation, but his motivation and method here remain ones we would still acknowledge as valid today”; (Ezra, Nehemiah, WBC, [Waco, Tex.: Word, 1985), 16:160.

908 Baldwin’s comment is cogent: “Since a married couple must come to a common understanding in order to live happily together, one or other partner had to compromise on the matter of religion” (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 238).

909 The prevailing views are that the “holy thing” is (1) the sanctuary, that is, the Temple, or (2) the people of YHWH. See respectively, Theophane Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, (Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969), 257; Laetsch, Minor Prophets, 525.

910 This verb, not common to begin with (43 times), occurs five times in Malachi, all in this passage (2:10, 11, 14, 15, 16). It means “to act treacherously” (BDB, 93), in the Malachi context to undertake divorce of one’s wife in order to marry the “daughter of a foreign god” (v. 11). Thus, to act treacherously is tantamount to violating the marriage covenant and, by extension, the covenant between YHWH and Israel. See S. Erlandsson, TDOT, 1:470-73, s.v. dgB

911 Keil, The Twelve Minor Prophets, 2:449-50; John M. P. Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Malachi, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 58. For a host of other suggestions, see Beth Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger, SBL Series 98 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987), 94-99.

912 See, however, Job 7:13; Prov. 2:17; Ezek. 16:8. De Vaux draws attention to the marriage contracts of the Jewish community of Elephantine in the fifth century B.C. (Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institutions [London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1961], 33. It is not unreasonable that such contracts (or “covenants”) were already in vogue in Palestine as early as Malachi’s time. In fact, the existence of divorce documents (Deut. 24:1-3; Jer. 3:8) almost certainly demands marriage documents.

913 The parallelism between ;T=r+b#h& (“your companion”) and ;t#yr]B= tv#a@ (“the wife of your covenant”) makes it clear that this is no ordinary companion but one inextricably bound by formal covenant, a fact supported by the cognate verb rb^j* (habar), “to unite, be joined” (BDB, 287). As for “wife of your youth,” Morgenstern plausibly argues that this refers to the first and only wife (“Jerusalem—485 B.C.,” HUCA 28 [1957]:33-34).

914 Other interpretations are: (1) those with spiritual insight will not violate marriage because they seek to procreate citizens for the kingdom of God (Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, 277); (2) God made a single being with both flesh (revocalizing ra*v=, “remnant,” to ra@v=, “flesh”) and spirit for the purpose of giving them godly offspring (Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 240); (3) the subject is God and “the one” is the object and equal to the “one flesh” of Gen. 2:24, a view that attributes the Spirit to God as His creative power (Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Malachi. God’s Unchanging Love [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984], 71-72).

915 This is the view of most Jewish and earlier Christian scholars. See Keil, The Twelve Minor Prophets, 2:452-55; C. Von Orelli, The Twelve Minor Prophets (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1893), 395-96; F. Hitzig, Die Zwlf kleinen Propheten (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1881), 424. For other passages where Abraham is called “the one,” see Isa. 51:2; Ezek. 33:24.

916 The phrase “take heed to your spirit” is common in covenant contexts (Ex. 23:13, 21; 34:12; Deut. 4:15, 23; 6:12; 8:11; 11:16; 12:13; 15:9; etc.). Its use with dg~B* in v. 16 clearly puts the passage in the realm of covenant violation. See McKenzie and Wallace, “Covenant Themes in Malachi,” 552.

917 Jacob M. Myers, Ezra-Nehemiah, AB 14 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1965), xlv, 85.

918 Cf. Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger, 15-16; Myers, Ezra-Nehemiah, 217-18; H. H. Rowley, “The Chronological Order of Ezra and Nehemiah,” in The Servant of the Lord and Other Essays on the Old Testament (London: Lutterworth, 1952), 155-54. The reconstruction I have developed is not that of any of these scholars alone but derives from a consensus held by them and others to a greater or lesser extent.

919 Thus Joel F. Drinkard, Jr., says, “After Ezra’s legislation was enacted, it would have been very difficult for Malachi’s position to be held” (“The Socio-Historical Setting of Malachi,” RevExp 84 [1987]:388).

920 Williamson says, “It is thus evident that in the circumstances [of Ezra] the divorce of foreign wives was considered the lesser of the two evils” (Ezra Nehemiah, 160-61). It is difficult to believe, however, that Ezra was advocating an evil of any degree. Dumbrell correctly notes that Malachi is condemning the divorce of Jewish wives that was required in order to undertake pagan marriages; (“Malachi and the Ezra-Nehemiah Reforms,” RTR 35 [1976]:48).

921 William A. Heth and Gordon J. Wenham, Jesus and Divorce. The Problem with the Evangelical Consensus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984), 162-64.

922 Cf. Pss. 73:6; 109:18; Lam. 4:14; Th. Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 262-63.

923 Coming at it from the angle of concentricity, Wendland describes the unit as “Dispute Four” in which A-B = B-A:

    (A) Warning—the day of judgment is coming (2:17-3:2a)

      (B) Means—purification of the people (3:2b-3a)

      (B) Result—pleasing offerings (3:3b-4)

    (A) Warning—the day of judgment is coming (3:5)

Ernst Wendland, “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi,” BT 36 (1985):117. This structural way of looking at the passage is not at all in conflict with the pseudo-dialogical, disputational form I am suggesting.

924 GKC 116p.

925 This interpretation goes against the vast majority of commentators and is therefore offered with great tentativeness. Even so, it does seem to fit the context of the whole passage better. Its major weakness is that it departs from the nearly unanimous Christian tradition that views the second messenger as identical to the Lord. For an approach that is cognizant of the ambiguities present in the text, see Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, (London: Tyndale, 1972), 242-43. Dumbrell says that a case can be made for this identification on the assumption that the prophecy is anonymous. What authorship of the book has to do with the matter is not plain (“Malachi and the Ezra-Nehemiah Reforms,” RTR 35 [1976]:48.

926 P.-E. Bonnard, Le Second Isae, Etudes Bibliques (Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1972), 87-88.

927 J. R. Villaln understands this covenant to be the one with Levi mentioned in 2:4, 5, 8 and the messenger of the covenant to be Elijah (“Sources Vtro-Testamentaires de la Doctrine Qumranienne des Deux Messies,” RevQ 8 [1972]:60). While Elijah no doubt is the messenger, the covenant, in light of the Isaiah parallels, would seem to be the Sinaitic, prefiguring the New.

928 O. Eissfeldt, TDOT 1:62, s.v. /oda*: “It is used to emphasize Yahweh’s rule over all the world.” One should note that whereas the coming of YHWH in Isa. 40:3 is to bring salvation, the coming of Adon in Mal. 3:1 is for judgment. See Steven L. McKenzie and Howard N. Wallace, “Covenant Themes in Malachi,” CBQ 45 (1983):554.

929 That the messenger of 3:1 and Elijah of 4:5 are one and the same is accepted by most scholars. See Pieter A. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 340.

930 For the Jewish (and other ancient) traditions on Elijah redivivus and messianic forerunner, see Joseph Coppens, Le Messianisme et sa Relve Prophtique (Gembloux: J. Duculot, 1974), 129-32; Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “The Promise of the Arrival of Elijah in Malachi and the Gospels,” GTJ 3 (1982):222-23. For an objection to this “early Jewish evidence” see Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “More About Elijah Coming First,” JBL 104 (1985):295-96.

931 R. T. France argues that Adon here is not a divine epithet but that it is synonymous with both “my messenger” and the “messenger of the covenant.” He therefore distinguishes between Adon and YHWH (and Jesus); Jesus and the Old Testament (London: Tyndale, 1971), 91-92. This seems difficult to sustain in light of the NT understanding of the messenger as a forerunner of Jesus the Lord, but his argument that the messengers themselves do the refining and purifying of vv. 2-3 seems most compatible with our own position. For a rebuttal of France and affirmation of the Adon-Messiah equation, see D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” EBC, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 8:264.

932 In the immediate setting the one they are seeking could be “the God of justice” in 2:17. In this case the viewpoint is not messianic at all but merely time-bound to the question concerning God’s whereabouts as judge. Thus Robert C. Dentan, “The Book of Malachi,” IB 6 (New York: Abingdon, 1956), 1137. However, the passage as it stands, without the additions alleged by Dentan and other scholars, is clearly messianic and eschatological in its overall import.

933 France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 91.

934 “Messenger of” never occurs elsewhere in the objective genitive sense, that is, in the sense in which the messenger himself is the content of or subordinate to the message. Cf. Prov. 16:14; Mal. 2:7. The latter passage is particularly instructive because it occurs in Malachi and provides an apt parallel to 3:1. The priest is the messenger of YHWH in that he proclaims the instruction of YHWH (2:7a), and the messenger of the covenant is such because he proclaims the covenant. Van Selms, in fact, argues that Elijah himself is the messenger of the covenant, a role he ties to 2:7 inasmuch as Elijah functioned as a priest on occasion. He also connects Elijah to the “book of remembrance” (3:16) by suggesting that Elijah was the scribe (or recorder, mazkir) whose task is to keep notes for YHWH the king. The messenger of the covenant, then, will come to make his report to the king, one inscribed in the book of remembrance; (“The Inner Cohesion of the Book of Malachi,” OTWSA 13-14 [1970-71]:36-38). Even though his identification of the messenger of the covenant with Elijah (and hence with “my messenger”) is in line with my own thesis, it seems that the suggestion of Elijah as mazkir, particularly with reference to the “book of remembrance,” has little to commend it.

935 Dumbrell states, “The actions of the messenger of Mal. 3:1-5 very much foreshadow the ministry of John”; (“Malachi and the Ezra-Nehemiah Reforms,” 48).

936 John M. P. Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Malachi, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 64. In the context of Mal. 1:6-2:9, “Levites” appears to be a general term for priests here. See McKenzie and Wallace, “Covenant Themes in Malachi,” 554.

937 In the NT sense of sacrifice this would refer to the offering of oneself (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:20) or of one’s praises (Heb. 13:15) or other “spiritual” sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5). Cf. Theodore Laetsch, Minor Prophets (St. Louis: Concordia, 1956), 536.

938 This shift from purification to judgment is noted by Dennis E. Johnson, who links the fire imagery implicit in 3:5 to that of 4:1 (“Fire in God’s House: Imagery from Malachi 3 in Peter’s Theology of Suffering [1 Pet. 4:12-19],” JETS 29 [1986]:288-89).

939 At the very least, if vv. 2-4 speak of the work of Adon, he cannot be the same as YHWH, for YHWH, as speaker in both vv. 1 and 5, sets Himself off in v. 5 from the preceding agent. While one could argue from a Christian theological perspective that Adon is the Son and YHWH the Father, it is unlikely that Malachi understood it that way. He would be more apt to see Adon as an epithet of YHWH and therefore to distinguish Him from the messenger of the covenant, who as actor in vv. 2-4, is himself distinguished from YHWH. Moreover, Adon is not a messianic epithet but one reserved for use in combination with YHWH or one of the other divine names. See Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (London: SCM, 1961), 1:203-4. Cf. Zech. 4:14; 6:5 where YHWH is described as “the Adon of the whole earth,” suggestive of His capacity as sovereign.

940 The distinction “messianic” and “eschatological” is, in any event, artificial, for messianic hope in the OT always lies within the eschatological realm. Thus, even in our passage phrases such as “suddenly come to His Temple” (v. 1) and “the day of His coming” (v. 2) are eschatological terms. However, from the vantage point of fulfillment vv. 1-4 took place already in the coming of Christ, whereas v. 5 still awaits the Parousia. Alden argues that only v. 1 pertains to the First Advent (“Malachi,” in EBC, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985] 7:719) and that vv. 2-5 are yet to be fulfilled. This is valid if Adon and the messenger of the covenant are one and the same but if, as I propose, the messenger of the covenant is the same as “my messenger,” vv. 1-4 are all first advent inasmuch as they would all be fulfilled in John the Baptist.

941 The term here, the piel ptc. of [V@K!, means “practicers of sorcery,” that is, of divination. Cf. G. Andr, TWAT 4:3/4: cols. 375-81, s.v. [v^K*.

942 There does appear to be a “descending” order in the list: (1) outright paganism (sorcery); (2) syncretism (adultery); (3) sin against YHWH and a brother (swear falsely; cf. Lev. 19:12; Ex. 20:16); (4) sin against the helpless of Israel (wage earner, widow, orphan); and (5) sin against the alien. Cf. Beth Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger, SBL Series 98 (Atlanta: Scholars, 1987), 159-68.

943 Wendland’s structural analysis—though approaching the passage in a rhetorical-critical rather than form-critical fashion—is very helpful. He perceives a concentric pattern for vv. 6-12 as follows:

    (A) Introduction: a divine promise (6)

      (B) Appeal—repent (7)

        (C) Indictment (8)

          (D) Verdict: Curse (9a)

        (C) Indictment (9b)

      (B) Promise—blessings on those who repent (10-11)

    (A) Conclusion: a messianic vision (12)

E. Wendland, “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi,” 118; cf. E. Ray Clendenen, “The Structure of Malachi: A Textlinguistic Study,” CTR 2 (1987):14.

944 Ralph L. Smith, Micah-Malachi, EBC (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1984), 332.

945 Or, “For I, the Lord, have not gone back on My word.” For support of this nuance of yt!yn]v* see Nahum M. Waldman, “Some Notes on Malachi 3:6; 3:13; and Psalm 42:11,” JBL 93 (1974):544.

946 For this causal force of yK!, see GKC 158b.

947 Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, 299.

948 Many scholars obviate this problem with the waw by construing the verb hl*K* as “cease,” “stop,” or the like. This allows it to be synonymous to hn`v* (“change”) and for the line to be rendered, “I, YHWH, have not changed, but you, O sons of Jacob, have not stood firm.” Thus Wilhelm Rudolph, Haggai-Sacharja 1-8-Sacharja 9-14-Maleachi, KAT (Gütersloh: Verlaghaus Gerd Mohn, 1976), 281. This takes waw as the coordinate rather than subordinate conjunction. In its favor additionally is the inconstancy of Israel revealed in v. 7. But hl*K* with this meaning is difficult to establish. Cf. BDB, 477-78; KBL, 437-38. Another suggestion is that hl*K* here means “come to an end” —a well-attested meaning—and that the comparison is thus made between the immutability of YHWH as covenant-maker and His people as covenant partners: “I, YHWH, do not change and you, sons of Jacob, do not come to an end.” See Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 245. If, as we argue, v. 6 goes with 7 ff. and not vv. 1-5, this interpretation seems unlikely since it immediately seems to be contradicted by v. 7.

949 Laetsch, Minor Prophets, 539.

950 E. E. Carpenter, ISBE, 4:861-64, s.v. “tithe.”

951 Jacob Milgrom, “The Soq Hatteruma: A Chapter in Cultic History,” in Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology (Leiden: Brill, 1983), 159-70; and “Akkadian Confirmation of the Meaning of the Term Teruma, 171-72.

952 Van Hoonacker, in line with the Vg, takes the curse to be poverty. Because the people have defrauded YHWH, he has reduced them to penury (Les Douze Petits Prophtes, [Paris: Librairie Victor Lecoffre, 1908], 734-35). This cannot be wide of the mark, as vv. 10-12 make clear.

953 Dentan, “The Book of Malachi,” 1140.

954 Wendland appears to sense this difference without articulating it in so many words. Once more his concentric patterning is helpful in delimiting the boundaries of the whole passage.

    (A) Objection—YHWH is unjust: “serve God” + “doers of wickedness” (13-15)

      (B) Justice: YHWH “hears” those who “fear” Him (16)

      (B) Blessing: YHWH will spare His “treasure” (17)

    (A) Refutation—YHWH is just: “serve God” + “the wicked” (18)


      (X) Fate of the wicked: “day” + “wicked” + “ablaze” + “YHWH of Hosts” (1)

      (Y) Future of the God-fearing (2)

      (X’) Fate of the wicked: “wicked” + “ashes” + “day” + “YHWH of Hosts” (3)

Wendland, “Linear and Concentric Patterns in Malachi,” 119.

955 Waldman, on the basis of Akkadian parallels, offers the bold but quite convincing translation, “your words have been too much for me,” that is, more than YHWH will tolerate (“Some Notes on Malachi 3:6; 3:13; and Psalm 42:11,” 546).

956 This is clearly an expression of hypocritical deference to YHWH. So C. F. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. The Twelve Minor Prophets (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1871), 2:465.

957 There is an interesting contrast of the use of the verb /j^B* here and in v. 10. In the earlier passage YHWH urges the people to test Him in regard to His willingness and ability to pour out His blessings in response to their devotion. Now, He says, His interrogators are upset that He will do nothing to those who test Him. The difference clearly is one of attitude. In v. 10 the idea is to put God to the test in light of His promise to bless (cf. Ex. 4:1-9; Judg. 6:36-40; 1 Kings 18:22-23; Isa. 7:10-11). In v. 15 it is to put God to the test in an act of defiant testing of His patience (Ps. 95:9). Cf. M. Tsevat, TDOT, 2:69-72, s.v. /jb; J. M. P. Smith, A Commentary on Malachi, 77.

958 The verb ar@y` and its cognates are very much at home in OT covenant contexts. Cf. Deut. 6:2, 13, 24; 10:12-11:17; 31:12-13; Jer. 32:39, 40; H. F. Fuhs, TWAT 3:6/7; cols. 869-93, esp. 886-88, s.v. ar@y`.

959 Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 249: “They begin to encourage each other to renewed faith.”

960 Chary rightly connects this record to Isa. 65:6 and Neh. 13:14 and suggests that the book contains not only names but deeds as well; (Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, [Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969], 273).

961 H. Wildberger, THAT, 2:cols. 142-44, s.v. hL*g%s=; Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), 226; Moshe Greenberg, “Hebrew Segull: Akkadian Sikiltu,” JAOS 71 (1951):172-74.

962 A. Deissler, Zwlf Propheten III. Zefanja, Haggai, Sacharja, Maleachi (Wurzburg: Echter, 1988), 335.

963 Van Hoonacker, Les Douze Petits Prophtes, 739.

964 Though the word rWNT^ frequently means “pottery kiln” (cf. James L. Kelso, The Ceramic Vocabulary of the Old Testament, BASOR Supp. Studies 5-6 [New Haven, Conn.: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1948], 8-9, 10, 31-32), it must mean “furnace” or “incinerator” here, as the burning of the vq^ (qas, “stubble”) makes clear. As Elliger says, “Restlose Vernichtung ist des Sinn”; (“the sense is that of complete annihilation” (Die Propheten Nahum, Habakuk, Zephanja, Haggai, Sacharja, Maleachi, ATD [Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982], 215).

965 For a full discussion of the imagery here, see Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger, 233-40. Though “sun” is nowhere else a messianic epithet, Zecharias the priest (and father of John the Baptist) appears to appropriate the imagery of Malachi as a part of his blessing on his son, the forerunner of Jesus (Luke 1:76-79). For a helpful discussion of the NT use of this text in Malachi, see Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Malachi. God’s Unchanging Love (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 105-6.

966 Chary draws attention to similar imagery from the ancient Near East, including the Egyptian disk of the sun from which “hands” extend to the divine protege, the ideogram for which is the ankh sign meaning “life.” The winged sun is also common in Assyrian art, examples of which are the disk of Shalmaneser III (ANEP, #351) and a figure of the god Assur (ANEP, #536); Th. Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 275. While there no doubt was a common fund of such imagery in the ancient Near East, a deposit from which the authors of the OT occasionally drew, there is enough inner-biblical support for the winged sun of Malachi as an apt metaphor for blessing as not to require any cross-cultural borrowing. Moreover, the “wing” here, in common with the usual use of [n`K* in figurative speech in the OT (Num. 15:38; 1 Sam. 15:27; 24:5, 6, 12; Jer. 2:34; Hag. 2:12; Zech. 8:23), may refer to a pocket or fold in the garment. Perhaps, then, the sun rises with healing in its “pouch” or “bag.” Cf. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, 331.

967 The Apocalypse of John describes the day of God’s triumphant wrath in identical imagery. An angel will cast the fruit of the vineyard into the winepress where it will be trodden under foot, producing not juice but blood (Rev. 14:19-20). Then when the King of kings comes to assert His dominion, He will “rule [the nations] with a rod of iron” and “tread the winepress” of the wrath of God (Rev. 19:15). Clearly, to tread the winepress is synonymous with the imposition and exercise of dominion. The same Greek verb is used in both places (patevw).

968 Thus, e.g. C. von Orelli, The Twelve Minor Prophets (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1897), 403.

969 Dentan weakens the imagery by referring to the scene only as “the defeat of the wicked” (“The Book of Malachi,” 1143).

970 Laetsch compares Malachi’s ending with that of Isaiah and Acts and suggests that it shares with them a final appeal to the people to forsake their wickedness and in true repentance to turn to the Lord (The Minor Prophets, [St. Louis: Concordia, 1956], 547). As Pierce notes, “The situation has worsened to the point of extreme pessimism” (“A Thematic Development of the Haggai/Zechariah/Malachi Corpus,” JETS 27 [1984]:410.

971 Pieter A. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 338-39.

972 H. Eising, TDOT, 4:66, s.v. rk^z`.

973 Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, 343.

974 Robert L. Alden, “Malachi,” EBC, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1955), 7:724.

975 N. Lohfink, TDOT, 5:180-99 (esp. p. 198), s.v. <r^j*.

976 For various traditions to this effect, see Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968), 6:316-42 passim.

977 As Kaiser notes, the day of YHWH here “embraces both advents” (“The Promise of the Arrival of Elijah in Malachi and the Gospels,” GTJ 3 [1982]:229).

978 Kaiser, “The Promise of the Arrival of Elijah in Malachi and the Gospels,” 230.

979 Moreover, as Baldwin points out, the reference to Horeb ties the two together, for Moses received the Law there and Elijah received a new sense of prophetic vocation on the same mountain (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, [London: Tyndale, 1972], 252). Gerald L. Keown suggests that Elijah, as a powerful defender of Yahwistic faith, is frequently associated with the purifying qualities of fire and for that reason appears in the Malachi judgment passages (“Messianism in the Book of Malachi,” RevExp 84 [1987]:445-46).

Related Topics: Dispensational / Covenantal Theology, Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Temple, Tithing

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