Time: 430 BC.
"Malachi" means "my messenger." We know nothing of the
prophet's parentage, ancestral or tribal roots, geographical origin, or other
vocation. All we know is that he received and communicated the word of Yahweh to
the Jews of his day.
Some scholars have tried to prove that "Malachi" was not the
name of a prophet but the title of an anonymous prophet. None of the references
to this book in the NT mention Malachi by name (cp Mat 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke
7:27). The arguments for anonymity rest on three points:
Malachi's reference to "your governor" (Mal 1:8) indicates
that he wrote after 538 BC, when Cyrus the Persian allowed the Jews to return to
their land, which was under Persian control. The word translated "governor" is
"pehah", a Persian title (cp Ezra 5:3,6,14; 6:6,7,13; Dan 3:2,3,27; 6:7).
Zerubbabel had this title (Hab 1:1,14; 2:2,21) as did Nehemiah (Neh 5:14;
12:26). Malachi must have written after the temple had been rebuilt since he
referred to worship there (Mal 1:6-14; 2:7-9, 13; 3:7-10). This would force a
date after 515 BC when temple restoration was complete.
- "Malachi" is a title rather than a name in its
form. The LXX translators rendered it "my messenger" in Mal 1:1. However, it
could be a short form of a name such as Malachiyyah, "messenger of Yahweh."
There are several other shortened forms of names similar to this in the Old
Testament (eg, cp 'abi in 2Ki 18:2 with 'abiyyah in 2Ch 29:1; and cp 'uri in 1Ki
4:19 with 'uriyyah in 1Ch 11:41).
- The Targum (an
ancient Aramaic translation and paraphrase of OT) did not consider Malachi the
writer but ascribed it to Ezra. The Talmud (a Jewish interpretation compiled
between 450 BC and 500 AD) credited Mordecai with writing it. But there is
little other support for Ezra or Mordecai's authorship of this
- "Malachi" appears in Mal 3:1 as an
anonymous designation meaning "my messenger," so it may mean the same thing in
Mal 1:1. However, the Malachi in Mal 3:1 seems clearly to be a wordplay on the
name of the prophet in Mal 1:1.
Since Malachi addressed many of the same matters that Nehemiah
tried to reform, it is tempting to date Malachi during Nehemiah's governorship.
Some have conjectured that Malachi ministered while Nehemiah was away from
Jerusalem. In the twelfth year of his governorship, Nehemiah returned to Persia
for an unknown period of time (Neh 5:14; 13:6). Malachi probably wrote during
the years Nehemiah ministered (445-420 BC), and perhaps between 432 and 431 BC,
the years when Nehemiah was away from Jerusalem. [See
Lesson, Post-exile period, dates.]
Summary: Malachi's message comes to the people in a
time of great spiritual decline. It is approx 80 years after the rebuilding of
the temple and the promises of the coming Messiah have not yet been realized. As
a result, the people had become lazy and developed an increasingly casual
attitude toward the worship of God. Malachi states that their sacrifices were
unacceptable to God, husbands were unfaithful, and the priests had neglected
Malachi's notable messianic prophecy deals with the forerunner
of the Messiah (Mal 3:1; 4:5). He would be like Elijah and would call the
Israelites to repentance (cp Mat 11:14; 17:12-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke
Heading: Mal 1:1
First oracle: Yahweh's love for Israel: Mal 1:2-5
Second oracle: The priests' illicit practices and indifferent
attitudes: Mal 1:6 -- 2:9
Third oracle: The people's mixed marriages and divorces: Mal
- Their sins: Mal 1:6-14
- Their warning: Mal
Fourth oracle: The problem of God's justice: Mal 2:17 --
Fifth oracle: The people's sin of robbing God: Mal
Sixth oracle: The arrogant and the humble: Mal 3:13 --
A concluding promise and warning: Mal 4:4-6.