The English word prophet in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word “nabiy” which means “spokesman” or “speaker”. The Greek word for prophet is “prophētēs”, which can mean “one who speaks forth” or “advocate.” Prophets are also called “seers,” because of their spiritual insight or their ability to “see” the future, as directed by God.
Malachi is the name the prophet who authored the last book of the Old Testament.
The name Malachi comes from a Hebrew word meaning “messenger,” which points to his role as a prophet of the Lord, That is really all we know about him. There is nothing in the book that tells us anything about his birthplace and where he lived. He, differing from several of the other prophets, doesn’t identify his father, or give the names of any of the kings that reigned during his life and ministry. We do know from the contents of the book that he delivered his message to the people of Israel after the Babylonian exile.
Malachi 1:1 (NLT2)1 This is the message that the LORD gave to Israel through the prophet Malachi.
Malachi 2:11 (NLT2)11 Judah has been unfaithful, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. The men of Judah have defiled the LORD’s beloved sanctuary by marrying women who worship idols.
We can get an idea of the time and historical setting of Malachi’s ministry by his use of the Persian word pechah that he uses for governor.
Malachi 1:7-8 (NLT2)7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (emphasis mine)
This indicates that he lived and ministered at a time when the nation of Israel was still under the control of the Persian Empire. The altar of the Lord he talked about, was the altar at the Temple in Jerusalem. The temple was rebuilt after the return from the Babylon exile. This places the timing of Malachi's ministry sometime after 515 BC when the temple construction was completed.
Malachi’s concerns with temple worship are similar to those of Nehemiah, which is the reason that some scholars date the book during the time that Nehemiah was away from Jerusalem starting in 432 BC.
Nehemiah 13:6-9 (NLT2)6 I was not in Jerusalem at that time, for I had returned to King Artaxerxes of Babylon in the thirty-second year of his reign, though I later asked his permission to return.7 When I arrived back in Jerusalem, I learned about Eliashib’s evil deed in providing Tobiah with a room in the courtyards of the Temple of God.8 I became very upset and threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the room.9 Then I demanded that the rooms be purified, and I brought back the articles for God’s Temple, the grain offerings, and the frankincense.
The people of Judah had turned away from the true worship of the Lord, leaving themselves under judgment and in need of salvation.
Why Malachi Is Important
Most people only know about Malachi from the scripture that preachers use at offering time to encourage and sometimes threaten people to tithe but the book of Malachi is much more important than that.
Malachi 3:8-11 (NKJV)8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings.9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.11 "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," Says the LORD of hosts;
Malachi is important because;
- God chose the nation of Israel to be a blessing to all nations because of the faith of Abraham.
Genesis 22:18 (NLT2)18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”
- The Messiah would come from the lineage of Israel's King David.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 (NLT2)5 “For the time is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land.6 And this will be his name: ‘The LORD Is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.
- Israel disobeyed God and experienced wandered in the desert for 40 years.
Numbers 14:34 (NLT2)34 “‘Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years—a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins. Then you will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.’
- And they suffered the shame of exile.
Leviticus 26:14-16, 33-34 (NLT2)14 “However, if you do not listen to me or obey all these commands,15 and if you break my covenant by rejecting my decrees, treating my regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey my commands,16 I will punish you. I will bring sudden terrors upon you—wasting diseases and burning fevers that will cause your eyes to fail and your life to ebb away. You will plant your crops in vain because your enemies will eat them. 33 I will scatter you among the nations and bring out my sword against you. Your land will become desolate, and your cities will lie in ruins.34 Then at last the land will enjoy its neglected Sabbath years as it lies desolate while you are in exile in the land of your enemies. Then the land will finally rest and enjoy the Sabbaths it missed.
Jeremiah 29:10 (NLT2)10 This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.
By the time of Malachi, they had been back in the land of Israel for more than a hundred years and were looking for the blessings they expected to receive when they returned. Though the temple had been rebuilt, they were no longer excited about being able to worship God in their own land. They has become apathetic about the things of God. This led to corruption among the priesthood and a spiritual lethargy among the people.
Malachi 2:1-9 (NLT2)1 “Listen, you priests—this command is for you!2 Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.3 I will punish your descendants and splatter your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile.4 Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites can continue,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered me and stood in awe of my name.6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”
Malachi came along at a time when the people were struggling to believe that God loved them .
Malachi 1:2 (NLT2)2 “I have always loved you,” says the LORD. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?” And the LORD replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob,
God told the people, through Malachi, where they had fallen short. If they hoped to see changes, they needed to take responsibility for their own actions and serve God faithfully according to the promise their fathers had made to God on Mount Sinai.
Exodus 24:3 (NLT2) Then Moses went down to the people and repeated all the instructions and regulations the LORD had given him. All the people answered with one voice, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.”
That’s where that favorite scripture before offering comes in.
Malachi 3:10-11 (NKJV)10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.11 "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," Says the LORD of hosts;
What God is saying is to do what you said you would do at Mt. Sinai. When you do that you will experience the mercy of God that Malachi writes about.
Malachi 3:11-12, 17-18 (NLT2)11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.18 Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
The book of Malachi provides a smooth transition from the Old Testament which talks about judgement for not being able to obey the Law (Old Covenant), and the New Testament, the New Covenant under which righteousness comes through the final sacrifice for sin by Jesus Christ on the cross. Malachi ends with the announcement of the one who will introduce that New Covenant and be the herald for the Messiah.
Malachi 4:5-6 (NLT2)5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
That person was John the Baptist.
Isaiah 40:3 (NLT2) Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!
Mark 1:1-4 (NLT2)1 This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began2 just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way.3 He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”4 This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins.