This book was probably written between 515 and 445 BCE (after the temple was rebuilt but before Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem), and the author is anonymous (Malachi is just Hebrew for ‘my messenger’). Some scholars even think that Malachi was actually Ezra.
The background on this book is that the Jews have been told that their defeat and exile were due to lapsed religious laws – falling away from god, turning to other religions, not observing all the rules from back in the Pentateuch. After they returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple, they were observant for a while, but now they’re starting to slip again, and Malachi is trying to steer them back… Actually, doesn’t this kind of sound like a lot of preachers today? Blaming all our current problems on people straying from fundamentalism? If only we would return to being a god-fearing nation, all our troubles would be over.
Yahweh plays favorites, that’s for sure. The Israelites are questioning his love for them – little wonder, as they haven’t fared very well of late – and he responds that they should know he loves them because – Remember? He favored their ancestor, Jacob, over Esau. Their branch of the family gets the good land. Esau’s descendants are left to subsist in the hills of Edom. (v 1-5) And god just doesn’t get enough respect! His people bring substandard offerings to his altar – not what he demands if they expect to win his favor. What are they thinking? Bringing a crippled animal as a sacrifice. The nerve! (v 6-14)
If people don’t honor you enough, take god’s advice on how to gain respect – curse them and demand it, then toss manure in their faces to get their attention. That ought to prove your point! (v 1-4) Furthermore, the priests are becoming corrupt. Here’s a verse that demonstrates that not all of the bible is irrelevant today: ““The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction… But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin.” (v 7-8) That describes quite a few priests we’ve read about in the news lately!
V 11-12 condemn marrying outside the faith – remember, Ezra harped on that issue. But v 14-16 are about faithfulness in marriage and condemn divorce. So which is it? What should a man do if he is already in an interfaith marriage? I don’t think there’s an answer here – you can interpret this section any way you want.
Judgement day is coming, and god will send his messenger ahead of time to let everyone know and prepare. (v 1) Apparently this is Elijah, or John the Baptist, or perhaps Elijah is John the Baptist (but in the NT John the Baptist will flatly deny that he is Elijah). I’m so confused.
What I know for sure from what I’ve read is that this verse will be important in the NT; in fact, Malachi is quoted in the NT multiple times, but this section seems to be the most significant. And nowhere in this book is Elijah or John the Baptist even mentioned, so people are just making that stuff up as they interpret it according to what they already believe, anyway. And when the ‘messenger of the covenant’ arrives, he will appear like a blazing fire, and he will purify everyone – I assume this refers to Jesus (or at least, people obviously believe it refers to Jesus). Anyway, Handel obviously assumed that these verses (1-3) referred to John the Baptist heralding the coming of the Messiah (Jesus), because he used them as lyrics in you-know-what.
The rest of the chapter just carries on about judgement, and settling scores, and repentance, and god making sure everyone grovels enough.
Malachi announces Elijah
That’s it for the Old Testament, and I am so DONE DONE DONE!