Book of Malachi


{mal' - uh - ky}

(Hebrew Mál'akhî)

General Information

Malachi is the last of the 12 books of the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible. Malachi means "my messenger" in Hebrew, and few scholars believe that it is the actual name of the prophet. The prophet's themes include the ritual purity of sacrifices, the evils of mixed marriages and divorce, and the coming day of judgment. The book, consisting of six oracles, is believed to have been written after the reconstruction of the Temple (516 BC) and before the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah (c. 450 BC).

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Book of Malachi, Malachias

Brief Outline

  1. Sins of the Priests (1:1-2:9)
  2. Sins of the people (2:10-4:1)
  3. Coming of the Son of Righteousness (4:2-6)


Advanced Information

Malachi, messenger or angel, the last of the minor prophets, and the writer of the last book of the Old Testament canon (Mal. 4:4, 5, 6). Nothing is known of him beyond what is contained in his book of prophecies. Some have supposed that the name is simply a title descriptive of his character as a messenger of Jehovah, and not a proper name. There is reason, however, to conclude that Malachi was the ordinary name of the prophet. He was contemporary with Nehemiah (comp. Mal. 2:8 with Neh. 13:15; Mal. 2:10-16 with Neh. 13:23). No allusion is made to him by Ezra, and he does not mention the restoration of the temple, and hence it is inferred that he prophesied after Haggai and Zechariah, and when the temple services were still in existence (Mal. 1:10; 3:1, 10). It is probable that he delivered his prophecies about B.C. 420, after the second return of Nehemiah from Persia (Neh. 13:6), or possibly before his return.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

Prophecies of Malachi

Advanced Information

The contents of the book are comprised in four chapters. In the Hebrew text the third and fourth chapters (of the A.V.) form but one. The whole consists of three sections, preceded by an introduction (Mal. 1:1-5), in which the prophet reminds Israel of Jehovah's love to them. The first section (1:6-2:9) contains a stern rebuke addressed to the priests who had despised the name of Jehovah, and been leaders in a departure from his worship and from the covenant, and for their partiality in administering the law. In the second (2:9-16) the people are rebuked for their intermarriages with idolatrous heathen. In the third (2:17-4:6) he addresses the people as a whole, and warns them of the coming of the God of judgment, preceded by the advent of the Messiah. This book is frequently referred to in the New Testament (Matt. 11:10; 17:12; Mark 1:2; 9:11, 12; Luke 1:17; Rom. 9:13).

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

Prophecies of Malachi

From: Home Bible Study Commentary by James M. Gray

This book is a continuous discourse, so that, properly speaking, there are no intervening events. The prophet is a contemporary of Nehemiah, following closely Zechariah and Haggai. The evidence of this is chiefly internal and gathered from two facts: (1) That the second temple was evidently in existence at the time, and (2) That the evils condemned by Nehemiah are those which he also condemns. This will appear as we proceed, but compare Malachi 1:7, 8; 2:11-16; 3:8-10 with the last chapter of Nehemiah, especially verses 10-14, 23-29. Following an outline by Willis J. Beecher, we have:

The Introduction

1:1-5 What word in verse 1 indicates that the message, or messages, are in the nature of rebuke rather than comfort? With what declaration does verse 3 begin? While Jehovah thus declares Himself towards His Israel, how do they receive it? This skeptical insinuation in the interrogation, "Wherein hast thou loved us?" is a peculiarity of the book, and shows the people to have been in a bad spiritual frame, calculated to give birth to the practical sins enumerated later.

Be careful not to read a wrong meaning into that reference to Esau, as though God caused him to be born simply to have an object on which He might exercise His hate, or as if that hate condemned the individual Esau to misery in this life and eternal torment beyond. The hate of Esau as an individual is simply set over against the choice of Jacob as the heir to the promised seed of Abraham. Esau did not inherit that promise, the blessing to the world did not come down in his line, but that of his brother Jacob, and yet Esau himself had a prosperous life; nor are we driven to the conclusion by anything the Bible says that he was eternally lost.

Moreover, the particular reference is not so much to Esau as a man as to the national descendants of Esau, the Edomites, who had not only been carried into captivity as Israel had been, but whose efforts to rebuild their waste places would not be successful as in the case of Israel, because the divine purposes of grace lay in another direction.

The Second Division

1:6-3:4 consists of an address to the priests and Levites, more especially the former, in which they are charged with three kinds of offenses. The first is neglect of their temple duties, see chapter 1:6-2:9. The character of the offense is seen in verses 7 and 8, and 12 and 13 of chapter 1, while the punishment in the event of impenitence is in chapter 2:1-9. The second offense concerns unholy marriages, verses 10-16 of chapter 2. It was for this sin as well as the preceding one that Jehovah refused to accept their offerings (13, 14).

Notice the strong argument against divorce found in verse 15. God made one wife for one man at the beginning though He had the power to make more, and He did this because of the godly seed He desired. The third offense is that of skepticism, and as Beecher calls it, a bad skepticism, for there is a species of doubt which deserves compassionate treatment and which cannot be called evil in its spirit and motive. That, however, is hardly the kind of doubt now under consideration (See chapter 2:17). This division closes, as does the division following, by a prediction "concerning a day in which the obedient and disobedient shall be differentiated and rewarded."

This "day" we have often recognized as the "day of the Lord" still in the future both for Israel and the Gentile nations (3:1-4). Notice the partial fulfillment of verse 1 in the career of John the Baptist, as indicated in the words and context of Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 1: 76. But the concluding verses of the prediction show that a complete fulfillment must be ahead. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem has not yet been so purified by divine judgments as to be pleasant unto the Lord as in the days of old, but it shall yet come to pass.

The Third Division

3:5-4:3 consists of an address to the people as a whole, who like the priests, are charged with three kinds of offenses. The first is certain public wrongs in which are grouped false swearing, adultery, oppression and injustice (3:5-7). The second is the failure to support the temple and its ministers (3:8-12), in which case notice the charge of divine robbery, and the blessing promised to faithfulness in tithes. The third is the same kind of skepticism as with the priests (3:13-15). The prediction concluding this section covers verses 3:16-4:3, and is more comforting in character than the preceding one.

The Fourth Division

4:4-6 is a grand conclusion in which the great day of the Lord is once more referred to, and Elijah the prophet named as His forerunner. We learn from Matt. 11: 14, Mark 9:11 and Luke 1:17 that John the Baptist is to be considered the type of this forerunner, but that Elijah is to come again to this earth is the opinion of many. There are those who believe that he and Moses are the two witnesses in Revelation 11 that shall do wonders in Jerusalem during the reign of the Antichrist.

Questions 1. What is the peculiarity of this book? 2. Give the proof that Malachi is contemporary with Nehemiah. 3. How do you explain God's "hatred" of Esau? 4. What argument against divorce is found here? 5. How do some interpret the prediction about Elijah?

Malachias (Malachi)

Catholic Information

(Hebrew Mál'akhî), one of the twelve minor prophets.

I. Personage and Name

It is the last book of the collection of the twelve Minor Prophets which is inscribed with the name of Malachias. As a result, the author has long been regarded as the last of the canonical prophets of the Old Testament. All that is known of him, however, is summed up in the tenor of his preaching and the approximate period of his ministry. The Jewish schools identified him quite early with the scribe Esdras. This identification, which is without historical value and is based according to St. Jerome on an interpretation given to Mal., ii, 7, was at first probably suggested by the tradition which beheld in Esdras the intermediary between the prophets and the "great synagogue", whose foundation was attributed to him and to which he was considered to have transmitted the deposit of doctrine handed down by the prophets (Pirqe Abhôth, I, 2). The position of intermediary fully belonged to Esdras on the hypothesis that he was the last of the prophets and the first member of the "great synagogue". The name Malachias figures at the head of the book in the Septuagint. The Alexandrine translator, however, did not understand Mal., i, 1, to contain the mention of the author's proper name; he translates the passage: "The word of the Lord by the hand of his Angel," so that he has evidently understood the Hebrew expression to be the common noun augmented by the suffix; he has, moreover, read Mál'akhô instead of Mál'akhî. We cannot say whether this reading and interpretation should not be considered as an effect of Jewish speculations concerning the identity of the author of the book with Esdras, or whether an interpretation of this kind was not at the foundation of the same speculation. However that may be, the interpretation of the Septuagint found an echo among the ancient Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, and even gave rise, especially among the disciples of Origen, to the strangest fancies.

A large number of modern authors likewise refuse to see in Mál'akhî the proper name of the author. They point out that in Mal., iii, 1, the Lord announces: "Behold I send my angel (mál'akhî)...". According to them, it is from this passage that the name Mál'akhî was borrowed by a more recent author, who added the inscription to the book (i, 1). But, in the first place, this epithet Mál'akhî could not have the same value in i, 1, as in iii, 1, where it is the noun augmented by the suffix (my angel). For in i, 1, the Lord is spoken of in the third person, and one would expect the noun with the suffix of the third person, as in fact is given in the Septuagint (his angel). The messenger of the Lord is moreover announced in iii, 1, to arrive thereafter (cf. iv, 5; Hebrew text, iii, 23); consequently no one could have imagined that this same messenger was the author of the book. There would remain the hypothesis that Mál'akhî in i, 1, should be understood as a qualifying word signifying angelicus --- i.e. he who was concerned with the angel, who prophesied on the subject of the angel (iii, 1). This explanation, however, is too far-fetched. It is at least more probable that Mál'akhî in i, 1, should be understood as the proper name of the author, or as a title borne historically by him and equivalent to a proper name. We are no doubt in presence of an abbreviation of the name Mál'akhîyah, that is "Messenger of Yah".

II. Ccontents of the Book

The Book of Malachias in the Hebrew comprises three chapters. In the Greek Bible and in the Vulgate in contains four, chapter iii, 19 sqq., of the Hebrew forming a separate chapter. The book is divided into two parts, the first extending from i, 2, to ii, 16, and the second from ii, 17, to the end. In the first the prophet first inveighs against the priests guilty of prevarication in their discharge of the sacrificial ritual, by offering defective victims (i, 6-ii, 4), and in their office of doctors of the Law (ii, 5-9). He then accuses the people in general, condemning the intestine divisions, the mixed marriages between Jews and Gentiles (ii, 10-12), and the abuse of divorce (ii, 13-16). The second part contains a discourse full of promise. To a first complaint concerning the impunity which the wicked enjoy (ii, 17), Yahweh replies that the Lord and the angel of the New Testament are about to come for the purpose of purifying the sons of Levi and the entire nation (iii, 1-5); if the people are faithful to their obligations, especially with respect to the tithes, they will be loaded with Divine blessings (iii, 6-12). To a second complaint concerning the afflictions that fall to the lot of the just, while the wicked succeed in everything (iii, 13), Yahweh gives answer that on the day of his justice the good will take a glorious revenge (iii, 14 sqq.). The book closes with a double epilogue; the first recalls the remembrance of Moses, and the laws promulgated on Mount Horeb (iv, 4; Hebrew text, iii, 22); the second announces the coming of Elias before the day of Yahweh (iv, 5-6; Heb., iii, 23-24). The unity of the book taken as a whole is unquestionable; but many critics consider as the addition of another hand either both the epilogues or at least the second. There is indeed no connexion between these passages and what goes before, but from this consideration alone no certain conclusion can be drawn.

III. Date of Composition

The opinion brought forward some time ago, that the book of Malachias was composed in the second century B. C., has received no support. Critics are practically agreed in dating the book from about the middle of the fifth century B. C. The text itself does not furnish any explicit information, but many indications are in favour of the assigned date:

(a) mention of the Peha (i, 8), as the political head of the people takes us back to the Persian period; the title of Peha was indeed that borne by the Persian governor especially at Jerusalem (Haggai 1:1; Ezra 5:14; Nehemiah 5:14-15);

(b) the book was not composed during the first years that followed the return from the Babylonian captivity, because not only the Temple exists, but relaxation in the exercise of worship already prevails (Malachi 1:6 sqq.);

(c) on the other hand it is hardly probable that the discourses of Malachias are of later date than Nehemias. In the great assembly which was held during the first sojourn of Nehemias at Jerusalem, among other engagements, the people had taken that of paying the tithes regularly (Nehemiah 10:38), and history testifies that in this respect the adopted resolutions were faithfully carried out, although in the distribution of the tithes the Levites were unjustly treated (Nehemiah 13:5, 10, 13). Now Malachias complains not of the injustice of which the Levites were the object, but of the negligence on the part of the people themselves in the payment of the tithes (iii, 10). Again, Malachias does not regard mixed marriages as contrary to a positive engagement, like that which was taken under the direction of Nehemias (Nehemiah 10:30); he denounces them on account of their unhappy consequences and of the contempt which they imply for the Jewish nationality (Malachi 2:11, 12);

(d) it is not even during the sojourn of Nehemias at Jerusalem that Malachias wrote his book. Nehemias was Peha, and he greatly insists upon his disinterestedness in the exercise of his functions, contrary to the practices of his predecessors (Nehemiah 5:14 sqq.); but Malachias gives us to understand that the Peha was severely exacting (i, 8);

(e) The date of composition can only fall within some short time before the mission of Nehemias. The complaints and protestations to which this latter gives expression (Nehemiah 2:17; 4:4 sq.; 5:6, sqq., etc.) are like an echo of those recorded by Malachias (iii, 14, 15). The misfortune that weighted so heavily upon the people in the days of Malachias (iii, 9 sqq.) were still felt during those of Nehemias (Nehemiah 5:1 sqq.). Lastly and above all, the abuses condemned by Malachias, namely, the relaxation in religious worship, mixed marriages and the intestine divisions of which they were the cause (Malachi 2:10-12; cf. Nehemiah 6:18), the negligence in paying the tithes, were precisely the principal objects of the reforms undertaken by Nehemias (Nehemiah 10:31, 33, sqq., 10:38 sqq.). As the first mission of Nehemias falls in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I (Nehemiah 2:1), that is in 445 B. C., it follows that the composition of the Book of Malachias may be placed about 450 B. C.

IV. Importance of the Book

The importance lies (1) in the data which the book furnishes for the study of certain problems of criticism concerning the Old Testament, and (2) in the doctrine it contains.

(1) For the study of the history of the Pentateuch, it is to be remarked that the Book of Malachias is directly connected with Deuteronomy, and not with any of those parts of the Pentateuch commonly designated under the name of priestly documents. Thus Mal., i, 8, where the prophet speaks of the animals unfit for sacrifice, brings to mind Deut., xv, 21, rather than Lev., xxii, 22 sq.; the passage in Mal., ii, 16, relating to divorce by reason of aversion, points to Deut., xxiv, 1. What is even more significant is that, in his manner of characterizing the Tribe of Levi and its relations with the priesthood, Malachias adopts the terminology of Deuteronomy; in speaking of the priests, he brings into evidence their origin not from Aaron but from Levi (ii, 4, 5 sqq.; iii, 3 sq.). Consequently, it would be an error to suppose that in this respect Deuteronomy represents a point of view which in the middle of the fifth century was no longer held. Let us add that the first of the two epilogues, with which the book concludes (iv, 4; Hebrew text, iii, 32), is likewise conceived in the spirit of Deuteronomy.

The examination of the Book of Malachias may be brought to bear on the solution of the question as to whether the mission of Esdras, related in I Esd., vii-x, falls in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I (458 B. C.), that is to say, thirteen years before the first mission of Nehemias, or in the seventh year Artaxerxes II (398 B. C.), and therefore after Nehemias. Immediately after his arrival in Jerusalem, Esdras undertakes a radical reform of the abuse of mixed marriages, which are already considered contrary to a positive prohibition (Ezra 10). He tells us also that, supported by the authority of the King of Persia and with the co-operation of the governors beyond the river, he laboured with full success to give to religious worship all its splendour (Ezra 7:14, 15, 17, 20-8:36). And nothing whatever justifies the belief that the work of Esdras had but an ephemeral success, for in that case he would not in his own memoirs have related it with so much emphasis without one word of regret for the failure of his effort. Can data such as these be reconciled with the supposition that the state of affairs described by Malachias was the immediate outcome of the work of Esdras related in I Esd., vii-x?

(2) In the doctrine of Malachias one notices with good reason as worthy of interest the attitude taken by the prophet on the subject of divorce (ii, 14-16). The passage in question is very obscure, but it appears in v. 16 that the prophet disapproves of the divorce tolerated by Deut., xxvi, 1, viz., for cause of aversion.

The Messianic doctrine of Malachias especially appeals to our attention. In Mal. iii, 1, Yahweh announces that he will send his messenger to prepare the way before Him. In the second epilogue of the book (iv, 5, 6; Heb., text, iii, 23 sq.), this messenger is identified with the prophet Elias. Many passages in the New Testament categorically interpret this double prophecy by applying to John the Baptist, precursor of our Lord (Matthew 11:10, 14; 17:11-12; Mark 9:10 sqq.; Luke 1:17). The prophecy of Malachias, iii, 1, adds that, as soon as the messenger shall have prepared the way, "the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire," will come to His temple. The Lord is here identified with the angel of the testament; this is evident from the construction of the phrase and from the circumstance that the description of the mission of the angel of the testament (vv. 2 sq.) is continued by the Lord speaking of Himself in the first person in v. 5.

A particularly famous passage is that of Mal., i, 10-11. In spite of a difficulty in the construction of the phrase, which can be avoided by vocalizing one word otherwise than the Massoretes have done (read miqtar, Sept. thymiama, instead of muqtar in verse 11), the literal sense is clear. The principal question is to know what is the sacrifice and pure offering spoken of in v. 11. A large number of non-Catholic exegetes interpret it of the sacrifices actually being offered from east to west at the time of Malachias himself. According to some, the prophet had in view the sacrifices offered in the name of Yahweh by the proselytes of the Jewish religion among all the nations of the earth; others are more inclined to the belief that he signifies the sacrifices offered by the Jews dispersed among the Gentiles. But in the fifth century B. C. neither the Jews dispersed among the Gentiles nor the proselytes were sufficiently numerous to justify the solemn utterances used by Malachias; the prophet clearly wants to insist on the universal diffusion of the sacrifice which he has in view. Hence others, following the example of Theodore of Mopsuestia, think they can explain the expression in v. 11 as referring to the sacrifices offered by the pagans to their own gods or to the Supreme God; those sacrifices would have been considered by Malachias as materially offered to Yahweh, because in fact Yahweh is the only true God. But it appears inconceivable that Yahweh should, by means of Malachias, have looked upon as "pure" and "offered to his name" the sacrifices offered by the Gentiles to this or that divinity; especially when one considers the great importance Malachias attaches to the ritual (i, 6 sqq., 12 sqq.; iii, 3 sq.) and the attitude he takes towards foreign peoples (i, 2 sqq.; ii, 11 sq.). The interpretation according to which chap. i, 11, concerns the sacrifices in vogue among the Gentiles at the epoch of Malachias himself fails to recognize that the sacrifice and the pure offering of v. 11 are looked upon as a new institution succeeding the sacrifices of the Temple, furnishing by their very nature a motive sufficient to close the doors of the house of God and extinguish the fire of the altar (v. 10). Consequently v. 11 must be considered as a Messianic prophecy. The universal diffusion of the worship of Yahweh is always proposed by the prophets as a characteristic sign of the Messianic reign. That the phrase is construed in the present tense only proves that here, as on other occasions, the prophetic vision contemplates its object absolutely without any regard to the events that should go before its accomplishment. It is true that Mal., iii, 3-4, says that after the coming of the angel of the testament the sons of Levi will offer sacrifices in justice, and that the sacrifice of Juda and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord. But the new institutions of the Messianic reign might be considered, either inasmuch as they were the realization of the final stage in the development of those of the Old Testament (and in this case they would naturally be described by the help of the images borrowed from the latter), or inasmuch as they implied the cessation of those of the Old Testament in their proper form. In Mal., iii, 3-4, the religious institutions of the Messianic reign are considered from the former point of view, because the language is consolatory; in Mal, i, 10, 11, they are considered from the latter point of view, because the language here is menacing.

Certain authors, while admitting the Messianic character of the passage, think that it should be interpreted not of a sacrifice in the strict sense of the word, but of a purely spiritual form of devotion. However, the terms employed in v. 11 express the idea of a sacrifice in the strict sense. Moreover, according to the context, the censured sacrifices were not considered impure in their quality of material sacrifices, but on account of the defects with which the victims were affected; it is consequently not on account of an opposition to material sacrifices that the offering spoken of in v. 11 is pure. It is an altogether different question whether or not the text of Malachias alone permits one to determine in a certain measure the exact form of the new sacrifice. A large number of Catholic exegetes believe themselves justified in concluding, from the use of the term minhah in v. 11, that the prophet desired formally to signify an unbloody sacrifice. The writer of the present article finds it so much the more difficult to decide on this question, as the word minhah is several times employed by Malachias to signify sacrifice in the generic sense (i, 13; ii, 12, 13; iii, 3, 4, and in all probability, i, 10). For the rest, the event has shown how the prophecy was to be realized. It is of the Eucharistic sacrifice that Christian antiquity has interpreted the passage of Malachias (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXII, 1).

Publication information Written by A. Van Hoonacker. Transcribed by Thomas J. Bress. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York


TORREY, The Prophecy of Malachi in Journal of Soc. for Biblical Lit. (1898), pp. 1 sqq.; PEROWNE, Book of Malachi (Cambridge, 1896); REINKE, Der Prophet Maleachi (1856). Consult also Commentaries on te Minor Prophets by SMITH (1900); DRIVER (Nahum-Malachi; Century Bible); KNABENBAUER (1886); WELLHAUSEN (1898); NOWACK (1904); MARTI (1904); VAN HOONACKER (1908); also Introductions to the Old Testament (see AGGEUS.)

Holy Prophet Malachias (Malachi)

Orthodox Information

Commemorated January 3

Prophet Malachias ("messenger of God") is the last of the twelve minor Prophets, and also of all the Prophets of the Old Testament. He prophesied in the days of Nehemias, a wise man among the Hebrews, who also held a high and powerful position in the court of Artaxerxes the Long-armed, King of the Persians, who reigned from 465 to 424 BC. Malachias' book of prophecy is divided into four chapters; he foretold the coming of Christ as the Sun of Righteousness (4:2).

Dismissal Hymn of the Prophet (Second Tone)

A we celebrate the memory of Your Prophet Malachias, O Lord, through him we beseech You to save our souls.

Kontakion of the Prophet (Fourth Tone)
On this day You have appeared

Since the gift of prophecy dwelt in you richly, you, O Prophet, clearly foretold the coming of Christ God and the salvation of the entire world, which is enlightened through grace by His shining forth.

Book of Malachi

Jewish Perspective Information

Article Headings:

-Biblical Data:


Prophetic Tone.

-In Rabbinical Literature:

-Critical View:

-Biblical Data:

The Book of Malachi is the last in the canon of the Old Testament Prophets. It has three chapters in the Masoretic text, while in the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Peshiṭta it has four. The King James Version also, following the latter versions, has four chapters. As in the books of Isaiah, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes, the last verse in the Masoretic text is a repetition of the last verse but one. The style of the book is more prosaic than that of any of the other prophetical books; the parallelism met with in the others is here less pronounced, and the imagery often lacks force and beauty. The method of treatment is rather novel; it approaches the teaching method of the schools; Cornill speaks of it as "casuistic-dialectic." Thus the prophet first states his proposition; then he follows with remonstrances that might be raised by those he addresses; finally he reasserts his original thesis (comp. i. 2 et seq., 6 et seq.; ii. 13 et seq., 17; iii. 8, 13 et seq.). This form adds vividness to the argument. The book may be divided into three sections-(1) i. 1-ii. 9; (2) ii. 10-17; (3) iii. (A. V. iii. and iv.), the divisions given being those of the Masoretic text.


Ch. i. 2-ii. 9 represent Yhwh as Ruler and loving Father. It opens with a tender allusion to the love shown by Yhwh to Judah in the past; yet Judah acted faithlessly, deserting its benefactor. Malachi then addresses himself to the priests, those who are to lead the people in the way of Yhwh. He castigates them for being derelict in their duty by offering on Yhwh's altars polluted bread and animals that have blemishes. By doing so they show that they despise Yhwh (i. 6-10). But Yhwh can do without their worship, for the time will come when the whole heathen world will worship Him (i. 11-14). If the priests will not heed the admonition, dire punishment will be visited upon them (ii. 1-8).

Ch. ii. 10-17 speaks of Yhwh as the supreme God and Father of all, and inveighs against those who had left their Jewish wives and married heathen women.

Ch. iii. (A. V. iii. and iv.) speaks of Yhwh as the righteous and final Judge. It begins with the announcement that the messenger of Yhwh will come to prepare the way for Him by purifying the social and religious life (1-4). Yhwh will call to judgment all those who have transgressed the moral law and have been lax in the observance of the ritual; He invites all who have gone astray to return to Him and receive His blessings (5-15). The faithful will be blessed, while those who persist in disobeying the law of God will be punished (16-21). The book closes with a final exhortation to the godly.

Prophetic Tone.

Malachi, as opposed to the other prophetical books, lays much stress upon ceremonial observance (i. 6 et seq., 13 et seq.; iii. 7 et seq., 22): the priest is Yhwh's messenger (ii. 7, iii. 3 et seq.), and the law of Moses, with its statutes and observances, must be strictly observed (iii. 22). Yet he is not a formalist; the book breathes the genuine prophetic spirit. Thus, from the idea of the brotherhood of all Israelites he deduces the social duties which they owe to one another (ii. 10). Ceremonial observance is of value in his eyes only so long as it leads to spiritual service. In scathing language he lays bare the moral degeneracy of his time, a time given over to adultery, false swearing, oppression of the hireling and the widow and the fatherless (iii. 5 et seq.). Especially severe is he toward those who had entered into wedlock with heathen women (ii. 11-16).

The conditions that existed under his predecessors Haggai and Zechariah seem to have existed at the time of Malachi. The Exile is a matter of the past; the Temple is built, and sacrifices are being offered (i. 10, iii. 1-10). Malachi describes most faithfully the temper of his generation. The people had strayed away from Yhwh, and sought, by an assumption of indifference and by mockery, to hide their restlessness. The exiles had been disillusioned when they found the land of their fathers a wilderness. Drought, locusts, failure of harvests (iii. 10 et seq.) had deepened their discontent. Yhwh's sanctuary had been rebuilt, but still their condition did not improve; they were growing impatient and were asking for proofs of Yhwh's love (iii. 13 et seq.). Under the pressure of these unfavorable circumstances, priests and people neglected to show Yhwh the honor due to Him (i. 2 et seq.). Malachi lays stress upon the inevitableness of the Day of Judgment, the coming of which would prove to the skeptical that devotion and fear of God are not in vain, but will be rewarded. The messenger of Yhwh and the Last Judgment form the closing theme of Malachi's prophecy. The messenger will come in the person of Elijah, who will regenerate the people and restore them to union with Yhwh.

-In Rabbinical Literature:

Malachi is identified with Mordecai by R. Naḥman and with Ezra by Joshua b. Ḳarḥa (Meg. 15a). Jerome, in his preface to the commentary on Malachi, mentions that in his day the belief was current that Malachi was identical with Ezra ("Malachi Hebræi Esdram Existimant"). The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel to the words "By the hand of Malachi" (i. 1) gives the gloss "Whose name is called Ezra the scribe." According to Soṭah 48b, when Malachi died the Holy Spirit departed from Israel. According to R. H. 19b, he was one of the three prophets concerning whom there are certain traditions with regard to the fixing of the Jewish almanac. A tradition preserved in pseudo-Epiphanius ("De Vitis Proph.") relates that Malachi was of the tribe of Zebulun, and was born after the Captivity. According to the same apocryphal story he died young, and was buried in his own country with his fathers.

-Critical View:

The name is not a "nomen proprium"; it is generally assumed to be an abbreviation of (="messenger of Yhwh"), which conforms to the Μαλαχίας of the Septuagint and the "Malachias" of the Vulgate. The Septuagint superscription is ὲν χειρὶ ἀγγήλου αὐτοῦ, for . Wellhausen, Kuenen, and Nowack consider ch. i. 1 a late addition, pointing to Zech. ix. 1, xii. 1. Cornill states that Zech. ix.-xiv. and Malachi are anonymous, and were, therefore, placed at the end of the prophetical books. Mal. iii. 1 shows almost conclusively that the term was misunderstood, and that the proper name originated in amisconception of the word. The consensus of opinion seems to point to 432-424 B.C. as the time of the composition of the book. This was the time between the first and second visits of Nehemiah to Jerusalem. Some assert that the book was written before 458 B.C., that is, before the arrival of Ezra in Jerusalem.

Isidore Singer, Adolf Guttmacher

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.


Boehme, in Stade's Zeitschrift, vii. 210 et seq.; Driver, Introduction: D. Knobel, Prophetismus der Hebräer, i. 386, Breslau, 1837; Bleek, Introduction to the Old Testament, 2d ed., i. 357; Cornill, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, pp. 205 et seq., Freiburg, 1896; Cornill, The Prophets of Israel, p. 158, Chicago, 1895.S. A. G.

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