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Malachi Overview


Author:  In chap. 1, verse 1 the author identifies himself as Malachi.  In Hebrew the name means "My Messenger," which fits the overall theme of the book.  Nothing is known of his family lineage or background.

Date of Writing:  Preached as an oracle (vision) of God, the exact date is uncertain, however, references in the text to the temple and the priests suggest a time around 400-430 B.C., making him not only the last post-exilic prophet, but writer of the last book of the OT, followed by the "400 years of silence" that preceded the birth of Christ.

Purpose of Writing:  By Malachi's time, the temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt and many Jews had returned to Judah, but the people, over time, had become increasingly indifferent toward God:  (1) the sacrifices people brought to the temple did not conform to the law; (2) failing to tithe had become widespread, (3) mixed marriages were on the increase and divorce had become a common practice, and (4) perhaps worst of all, the priests were doing nothing to correct the peoples' violations of God's law.  After reminding the people the God still loved them in spite of their sin, Malachi sharply rebuked both the people and the priests for breaking their covenant with God, called them to repentance, and promised a future blessing.

Summary:   Over a thousand years after Abraham's era, the Jews of Malachi's time had experienced a long history in their relationship with God that included times of prosperity and security for obedience versus judgments for turning their back on God to the extent of being conquered and exiled from their land.  Now, having been back for more than a hundred years, the people were looking for the blessings promised to them earlier.  Through Malachi, God warned them they had seriously neglected their relationship with Him, called them to repent of their sin, and to serve Him faithfully according to the covenant made with their fathers.  As the final statement of judgment in the OT, the book anticipates God's saving work through the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Foreshadowing:  Chap. 3, verses 1-6 prophesy both the first and second comings of Christ.  The "messenger" who "will prepare the way before Me" in verse 1 refers to John the Baptist and his ministry of repentance and baptism to prepare the way for Jesus in the first coming (see Matthew 11); and the "LORD whom you seek" who "suddenly comes to His temple" also in verse 1 refers to Jesus Himself in His second coming (see Matthew 24).

Outline of the Book:

  • God's love for Israel (1:1-2)
  • God's hatred of Esau and Edom (1:3-5)
  • The unrepentant priests and their punishment (1:6-14; 2:1-9)
  • The first two oracles against the people (2:10-17)
  • The coming Messiah and his forerunner (3:1-6)
  • Third oracle against the peoples' sin of robbing God (3:7-12)

Application:  Malachi's message is as relevant to Christians today as it was to the Jews of that era.  It sharply reminds us that we can hide nothing from God, nothing at all.  If we do not honor the sanctity of our marriages, if we allow our worship of God to be corrupted, if we do not serve God when called to do so, and/or if we rob God by failing to tithe, God will hold us accountable.