His name means "my messenger". He is not mentioned anywhere else in the Old Testament.
Time of writing and time in history:
He wrote around 450-400 B.C.
- It had been about 100 years since the return of a remnant of Jews to Palestine from Babylon.
- Under the leadership of Haggai and Zechariah they had rebuilt the Temple (520-516 B.C.).
- 60 years later, Ezra came to help reestablish the nation (457 B.C.).
- Then, 13 years later (444 B.C.), Nehemiah came, and rebuilt the wall.
Malachi was likely associated with the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah. The city of Jerusalem and the second Temple had been built, but initial enthusiasm had worn off. Following a period of revival under Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:28-29), the people and priests had become backslidden and degenerate. They were mechanical in their observance of the law…offering inferior sacrifices and neglecting tithes. The people had reverted to pagan practices of intermarrying with their idolatrous neighbors (cf. Ezra 9).
So, the Jews, favored of God above all nations, discouraged by their weakness, and wedded to their sins, had settled down, in a lethargic state of mind, to await the coming of the Promised Messiah. Malachi assured them that the Messiah would come, but that it would mean judgment for such as they.
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, p. 384
Malachi is the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. To show this read Malachi 3:1. Who is “my messenger”? Read John 1:23 and Luke 3:3-4. A silence of 400 years lies between the voice of Malachi and the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord…
Malachi is the last prophet to speak to Israel in her own land. Israel here means all the remnant of Israel and Judah that returned after the exile. The first enthusiasm after the return from Babylon had spent itself. Following a period of revival (Nehemiah 10:28-39) the people had become cold religiously and lax morally.
The prophet Malachi was a reformer, but he encourages while he rebukes. He dealt with a people perplexed, with spirits failing, whose faith in God seemed to be in danger of collapse. If they had not already become hostile to Jehovah, they were in real danger of becoming skeptical.
Malachi means “my messenger” (that is, of the Lord). Like the forerunner of John the Baptist, of whom he prophesies, he was but a voice.
What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Mears, p. 326
Though lax in their worship (1:7) and delinquent in they're tithing (3:8), they could not understand why God was dissatisfied with them. Malachi rebuked the people for their neglect of the true worship of the Lord and called them to repentance (1:6; 3:7). Malachi used a question-and-answer method, there are no fewer than 23 questions in the book.
The Love of God for Israel Proclaimed Malachi 1:2-5
What an incredible way to begin a book...with an expression of God's love! The people want to sound as if God has not loved them, that they are innocent of sin and yet He has not treated them the way that they deserve. So, several times the word "How" is used by them (1:2,6,7; 2:17; 3:7,8,13)...as an expression of "injured innocence".
God says that He loved Jacob, but hated Esau (the Edomites are the descendants of Esau). This can be difficult for us to understand. Why would God love one and not the other? Why would God choose one and not the other? While the explanation for why God makes such a choice is not given here…the righteousness (correctness) of His choice is shown. Even though God had judged the sin of Esau by the destruction of the nation and declared that their nation would never be rebuilt…they obstinately declared that they would rebuild. This revealed a stubborn, sinful heart, which refused to repent of sin and be obedient to God. And thus, vindicated the decision of God to reject them. The point that God is making here is that if Israel would only look at the other nations around them (for example: Edom)…they would see that by virtue of God’s choice of them to be His chosen people they had been superbly blessed and experienced His love in a manner that other nations had not.
1:2-3 It is unfortunate that in this statement about Esau, God appears to some as an arbitrary, unjust, and capricious being, when in fact, the import of the verse is the avowal of God’s unmerited love and favor to an undeserving Jacob. “Hate” is used in the comparative rather than in the absolute sense. Because Jacob was loved more, Esau is said to be hated (cf. Gen. 29:30-31; Deut. 21:15-16; Prov. 13:24; Matt. 6:4; 10:37; Luke 14:26). Furthermore, “love” is not to be taken as indicative of salvation and “hate” as indicative of reprobation because the differentiation is temporal and not spiritual. Salvation is in fact promised to Esau (cf. Jer. 49:10; Amos 9:12; Obad. 19,21), as well as to Jacob (Rom. 1:16). Paul’s use of the verse in Romans 9:13 serves to illustrate the principle governing God’s election. It is according to foreknowledge (1 Pet. 1:12); and it is rooted in His love and “the pleasure of His good will” and purpose (Eph. 1:4-5,11-12), not in foreseen merit, whether actual or potential, in man. God’s indictment against Israel is prefaced by the warm assertion that despite the fact that they sin with impunity, His love for them remains unchanged. Regardless of God’s absolute hatred for sin, there always flows the love with which He invites the sinner to accept His forgiveness and grace.
The Criswell Study Bible, W.A. Criswell, footnote on Malachi 1:2-3, pp. 1073-1074
- Remember the reason why election is brought up here: not to exclude, but to comfort and reassure. "A woman once said to Mr. Spurgeon, 'I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau.' 'That,' Spurgeon replied, 'is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob.'" (William Newell in his commentary on Romans)
David Guzik :: Commentary on Malachi 1,
- They question his love, and diminish the instances of it, and seem to quarrel with him for telling them of it: Yet you say, Wherein hast thou loved us? As God traces up all his favours to them to the fountain, which was his love, so he traces up all their sins against him to the fountain, which was their contempt of his love. Instead of acknowledging his kindness, and studying what they shall render, they scorn to own that they have been beholden to him, challenge him to produce proofs of his love that are material, and think and speak very slightly of the instances they have had of his kindness, as if they were so few, so small, as not to be worth taking notice of, and no more than what they had sufficiently made returns for, or at least than he had sufficiently balanced with instances of his wrath. "Have we not been wasted, impoverished, and carried captive; and wherein then hast thou loved us?' Note, God justly takes it very ill to have his favours slighted, as not worth speaking of; and it is very absurd for us to ask wherein he has loved us, when, which way soever we look, we meet with the proofs and instances of his love to us.
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Malachi 1,
The Accusations of God Against Israel Identified Malachi 1:6-2:17
Malachi 1:6-14-The priests have despised God by making unacceptable offerings (sick, diseased animals) on the altar (:6-8a). God tells them to give offerings to the governor like those that they are giving to Him and see how he responds (:8b). They know that such an offering would be offensive to the governor and would incur his wrath…so they wouldn’t dare do such a thing. It shows that they have more respect for the governor than they have for God. Israel’s behavior brings such dishonor to God that they might as well go ahead and shut the doors of the Temple rather than continue such vile behavior (:10). God says that He is honored more by other nations than He is by Israel (:11-14).
Malachi 2:1-9-The priests have been unfaithful in their duties to lead and teach the people.
Malachi 2:10-12-The people have married foreigners who worship other gods.
Malachi 2:13-16-The people have not been faithful to their marriage covenants and have divorced their wives.
Malachi 2:17-The people have tried to justify their sin by saying that if it was such a bad thing then God would have judged them more quickly...and yet, nothing has happened.
The Warning of God to Israel Prophesied Malachi 3:1-6
Malachi interrupts the flow of thought and jumps ahead to a future time when a messenger will come (John the Baptist) to prepare the people for God's judgment by announcing the coming of the Messiah. And then, God Himself (Jesus) will come into His temple and exact judgment. He gives them a warning that they should not make such statements about God's righteousness and His judgment.
The Accusations of God Against Israel Identified, cont’d. Malachi 3:7-18
Malachi 3:7-12-The people have robbed God by not being faithful to give their tithes and offerings. He tells them that if they will bring their tithes to Him...then He will bless not only them, but other nations will see it and recognize the blessing.
Malachi 3:13-15-The people have said that it does no real good to serve God...it makes no difference.
Malachi 3:16-18-God says that He knows those that have been faithful and their names are written in a "book of remembrance". When the day of judgment comes He will know who has been faithful, and who has not.
The Final Judgment of Israel Malachi 4:1-6
God tells them that the day is coming when He will judge all the people. "But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings..." (:2). Malachi then predicts the coming of John the Baptist (:5).
Prayer: Lord, give me eyes that see Your blessings. Always remind me of how gracious You have been to me. And Father, please help me to never minimize the importance of worshipping You with my whole life…and to do so in a manner that is pleasing to You.