Michael Rydelnik


Author. Malachi is the last of the Twelve Prophets (Minor Prophets) as well as the entire section of the Prophets. Likely, the author’s name, "Malachi," means "my messenger" or "my angel." Most traditional Jewish sources speculate that Malachi was a member of the Great Synagogue along with Haggai and Zechariah. But Targum Jonathan, an early Jewish paraphrase (followed by Jerome and the medieval Jewish interpreter Rashi), saw "Malachi" as a title, adding the phrase, "who is Ezra the Scribe" after the word "Malachi."

Support for taking "Malachi" as a title is that there is no personal information about the prophet. However, little or nothing is known about other prophets as well (e.g., Obadiah and Habakkuk). Since the book follows the pattern of other prophets, whose names are found in the opening of their works, it seems most likely that it refers to an actual prophet named Malachi.

Date. The book contains no dates but it is believed to be postexilic largely from its canonical context, immediately following the postexilic books of Haggai and Zechariah. Internal evidence associates Malachi with conditions in that period, including the use of the term "governor" (1:8; Hg 1:1, 14; 2:2, 21), the references to intermarriage with foreign wives (Mal 2:11; Ezr 9–10; Neh 13:23–27), and the failure to pay tithes (Mal 3:8–10; Neh 13:10–14). Malachi implies that people gave offerings to their governor (Mal 1:8), a practice that Nehemiah flatly rejected (Neh 5:14, 18), indicating that the book was not written during Nehemiah’s administration. Therefore, Malachi wrote in the mid-fifth century BC, either before or after Nehemiah’s first term as governor.

Theme. The theme of Malachi is that the God of Israel loves the people of Israel (Mal 1:2) and they are to live in faithful obedience to Him. Simply put, the book of Malachi is about how to behave in light of God’s love.

The book is structured as a series of six disputations between the Lord and His people. Although other prophets used disputation as a literary device (e.g., Mc 2:6–11), Malachi is unique in structuring his entire book around it. The first disputation, regarding God’s love for Israel, functions as an introduction and establishes the book’s theme. The rest of the disputations present God’s rebuke of Israel for failing to live in light of His love. The book concludes with an exhortation based on God’s promise to restore Israel at the end of days.

Purpose. The book’s purpose is to motivate Israel’s faithful obedience to the Lord by reassuring them of God’s love and reminding them that His promises would be fulfilled by the Messiah in the eschatological day of the Lord (Mal 3:1–4; 4:4–6). Malachi intended to exhort the people to faithfulness in their own day in anticipation of God fulfilling His promises in the last days.

Although Malachi uses an oracular or sermonic style, as found in other OT prophets, his use of quotations, questions, and arguments gives it a distinctive style. Although Malachi does not use poetry, he does employ elevated language, which Herbert Wolf describes as "lofty prose" (Herbert Wolf, Haggai–Malachi: Rededication and Renewal [Chicago: Moody, 1976], 59). The use of the phrase "says the Lord of Hosts" 20 times in 55 verses emphasizes the prophetic nature of the book, indicating that the prophet’s message was from God Himself.

Contribution. A significant contribution of Malachi to the rest of the Bible is in guiding the interpretation of previous prophetic books. Although early readers may have taken the Major Prophets’ prophecies of the restoration to the land of Israel as being fulfilled in the returns under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, Malachi reminds Bible readers that those actually will not be fulfilled until the end of days. The future promises will be fulfilled in the great and terrible day of the Lord (4:5) when the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its wings (4:2).

Background. The book’s historical setting is after Israel’s partial return from captivity under Cyrus (539 BC; cf. Introduction to Haggai) and the rebuilding of the temple (515 BC). In the seventh year of King Artaxerxes (458 BC), Ezra the scribe returned with another group of exiles to the land of Israel. Ezra brought funds to engage in temple worship (Ezr 7:15–17), instructed the people in the law of Moses (Ezr 7:10), and instituted reforms to prohibit intermarriage with Gentile women (Ezr 9–10).

In Artaxerxes’ 20th year (445 BC), Nehemiah was made governor and allowed to lead the people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Having completed the task in 52 days (Neh 6:15), Nehemiah instituted reforms, including protection of the poor (Neh 5:2–13), rejection of intermarriage, Sabbath observance, and material support for the temple and priests (Neh 10:28–39). Nehemiah then returned to Persia in service of the king (Neh 13:6), and while he was away, the people broke virtually all their commitments (Neh 13:7–13). Some time later, Nehemiah returned for a second stint as governor and reestablished the previously instituted reforms (Neh 13:7–31).

As the final book of the Twelve, Malachi continues the eschatological emphases of both Haggai and Zechariah. Just as both Haggai and Zechariah conclude with eschatological/messianic promises (Hg 2:23; Zch 12–14), so Malachi continues this theme. His message is to look for Elijah to return to announce "the great and terrible day of the Lord" (Mal 4:5).

As the last book in the section of the Hebrew Bible called the Prophets, Malachi plays a role in the final canonical shape of the Hebrew Bible. John Sailhamer has observed a discernible strategy. The last paragraphs of both the Law (Dt 34:9–12) and the Prophets (Mal 4:4–6) predict the coming of a prophet who will announce the messianic kingdom. At the same time, the first paragraphs of the Prophets (Jos 1:1–9) and the Writings (Ps 1) call for meditating on the law of God, day and night. Thus, the final canonical shape of the OT functions as a call to look for the Messiah in the Word of God, while, at the same time, exhorting faithfulness to God’s Word until He comes (John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995], 239–52).


I. Introduction: God’s Love for Israel (1:1–5)

II. Body: God’s Disputations with Israel (1:6–4:3)

A. God’s Rebuke of the Priests for Failed Spiritual Leadership (1:6–2:9)

1. For Blemished Sacrifices (1:6–14)

2. For Corrupted Teaching (2:1–9)

B. God’s Rebuke of the People for Marital Unfaithfulness (2:10–16)

C. God’s Affirmation of His Justice Seen in Coming Judgment (2:17–3:6)

D. God’s Rebuke of the Nation for Failing to Tithe (3:7–12)

E. God’s Affirmation of the Value of Serving Him (3:13–4:3)

1. The Complaint of the Wicked (3:13–15)

2. The Answer of the Faithful (3:16–18)

3. The Judgment of God (4:1–3)

III. Conclusion: God’s Restoration of Israel (4:4–6)


I. Introduction: God’s Love for Israel (1:1–5)

The opening paragraph of Malachi functions as an introduction to the entire book. It establishes the theme of God’s love for Israel. In the rest of the book, God will direct Israel to live in light of that love.

1:1. The prophet Malachi calls his message a "burden" (oracle) (see comments on Zch 9:1a) conveying urgency, constraint, or compulsion. Malachi’s message is the word of the Lord and he must proclaim it.

1:2a–b. God makes the unconditional statement, I have loved you. "Love" reflects covenantal terminology, not meaning "affection," but rather the unconditional choice of Israel (cf. Dt 7:7–8). Israel responded by asking how, or, "Oh, really!" Perhaps their less glorious rebuilt temple (Hg 2:3), the agricultural difficulties they had faced (Hg 1:11), and/or the hostility of their neighbors (Neh 6:1–14) had caused them to doubt God’s love.

1:2c–5. God responds by comparing His relationships with Jacob and Esau. Since Esau was Jacob’s brother (1:2c), they had deserved equal treatment. Yet God hated Esau (1:3), referring to God’s active rejection of Esau. Hated in this verses does not mean "loved less" (see comments on Rm 9:13).

The differing way God treated the two nations’ lands proved His choice of Jacob (and the Jewish people) and rejection of Esau (and those descended from him, the Edomites). Israel’s sins caused God to exile them, but He allowed them to return and rebuild. Edom’s sins caused God to bring the Nabateans (around 500 BC) who drove out the Edomites and made their land a desolation (Mal 1:3). Edom could boast that they would return and build their nation, but God would not allow it. Although Israel was a holy land (Zch 2:12; Ps 78:54), Edom would forever be considered a wicked territory and a people toward whom the Lord is indignant (1:4). Israel would ultimately recognize God’s love and magnify Him above (not beyond) the border of Israel, recognizing His gracious treatment of their land and people.

II. Body: God’s Disputations with Israel (1:6–4:3)

With the keynote idea that God still loves Israel established, the prophet turns to the body of his message, namely, a series of disputations demonstrating Israel’s unfaithfulness despite that love. Covering all of Israelite society, the message reminds readers that God’s love should motivate covenantal loyalty. The first group Malachi addressed was the failed priesthood.

A. God’s Rebuke of the Priests for Failed Spiritual Leadership (1:6–2:9)

Malachi confronted the priests for failing in two primary roles of ministry: as intermediaries before God (1:6–14) and teaching God’s Word to the people (2:1–9).

1. For Blemished Sacrifices (1:6–14)

1:6. Once again entering into a disputation, God charged the priests with dishonoring Him. The priests failed to live up to the basic standards of human relationships, wherein a son honors his father, and a servant his master. Instead, Israel’s priests despised God’s name, meaning they showed contempt for God’s person and character. The Hebrew word translated "despise" means "to accord little worth" or "to show utter contempt." It was used to describe the rejected Messiah (Is 49:7; 53:3) and even the "despicable" king, Antiochus (Dn 11:21). Nevertheless, the priests feigned ignorance, asking, "How so?"

1:7–8a. The Lord presented His proof—they allowed the offering of defiled food (lit., "bread," used of sacrificial offerings, Lv 21:6) on the Lord’s table, a synonym for the altar and an allusion to covenantal meals (Ex 24:1). By allowing imperfect animals (blind, lame, sick, Mal 1:7–8) to be sacrificed, they blatantly disobeyed the law (cf. Dt 15:21; note that the word translated "serious" in Dt 15:21 is literally "evil," the same word used in Mal 1:8 to describe priestly behavior) and showed their contempt for the Lord.

1:8b–10. The Lord then gave four ways that the priests treated Him contemptibly (1:8–14). First, they failed to understand God’s standard of excellence (1:8b–10). To prove this, the Lord compared their deplorable offerings to food they would offer a governor. He would not receive them (1:8b), yet they offered imperfect sacrifices to the Lord of the universe, whose perfection, glory, and standards were infinitely higher. These sacrifices could not be used to obtain an audience with God (lit., "will you not seek God’s face?" not the NASB’s entreat God’s favor) or cause Him to be gracious (1:9). God preferred that someone would shut the gates of the temple rather than have priests uselessly kindle fire and offer defiled sacrifices on the altar.

1:11. Second, Israel’s priests believed God needed Israel to worship Him. The Lord reminded the priests that one day, from the rising of the sun even to its setting, God’s name would be great among the nations (cf. Is 2:2–4) of the whole world. This would not take place in their own day, but in the last days, even as revealed in Zch 14:16–21, the previous chapter in the book of the Twelve Prophets.

1:12–13a. Third, the priests failed to understand the great privilege of worship. They were profaning God’s name, treating it as if it were common or ordinary, by causing the table of the Lord to be defiled (or better, "desecrated," v. 12). Also, they sniffed at the tiresome nature (lit., what a hardship," cf. Ex 18:8; Nm 20:14; Lm 3:5; Neh 9:32) of worship, treating the reverence of God as a chore instead of recognizing that it was a privilege (Mal 1:13a).

1:13b–14. Finally, the priests tried to swindle God. First, they gave sacrifices that were taken by robbery. This would be like a bank robber giving a tithe of stolen money—God could not accept this. Second, they kept the male animal that they had previously vowed to give as a sacrifice, instead offering a blemished animal (1:14). But they could not fool God—He is a great King who demanded that the priests of Israel should fear Him even as, at the end of days, all the nations would.

2. For Corrupted Teaching (2:1–9)

Not only did the priests fail as mediators (1:6–14), they did not fulfill God’s expectations as messengers either (2:1–9).

2:1–3. The rebuke of the priests’ failure as teachers begins with a decree of discipline against them. There is no commandment to the priests here (2:1), but rather the word means "decree, admonition, resolution" (cf. Nah 1:14). Since the priests failed to honor God’s name, God would undo their service. First, He promised to distort their work, turning their priestly blessings into curses (Mal 2:2). Second, God would deny their work. When a priest would lift his arm to bless, God would rebuke it (2:3a). According to the Masoretic Text, God would rebuke their "seed," referring either to the discipline of their offspring (NASB, ESV; "descendants" NIV, HCSB) or their grain (NJPS). By reading the consonants with other vowels, the LXX understood the word to be "arm," referring to the priestly action of blessing. This makes sense in the context—the previous verse spoke of priestly blessing. Third, God would dishonor their work by spread[ing] refuse on their faces (2:3b). Refuse refers to the offal, or the unclean waste products of sacrificial animals, which was to be burned outside the camp (Lv 1:17; 16:27). God would treat the priests as unclean, deserving of being placed outside the camp.

2:4–7. Moving from His decree of discipline, God then described the covenant responsibilities of faithful priests. God expected the priests to respond to their discipline so that the covenant with Levi would continue (2:4). No specific covenant with Levi is mentioned in the Pentateuch. Malachi likely referred to the covenant God made with Phineas (2:5a; Nm 25:11–13; note similarity of terms like "covenant of peace") as applying to all Levitical priests (cf. Dt 33:8–11).

God’s covenant of life and peace was made with Phineas because he revered God (Mal 2:5; Nm 25:1–9; Ps 106:28–31), taught true instruction (lit., "Torah," law, Mal 2:6a), and walked with God in peace and uprightness (2:6b). This set the standard for any priest—so that any priest was expected to preserve knowledge and function as a messenger of the Lord (2:7). Messenger is the same word as Malachi’s name. Here is the only place that the OT uses it of priests, while Hg 1:13 is the only one to use it of prophets. Malachi also uses the word for the forerunner of the Messiah (Mal 3:1a) and the Messiah Himself (3:1b).

2:8–9. Malachi now delineates the failure of the priests. In contrast to Phineas, they have failed as a source of instruction (2:7) but instead have caused many to stumble by the instruction (2:8). The principle way they did this was by failing in their judicial responsibilities (Dt 17:9–11) by showing partiality (Mal 2:9). Malachi’s rebuke of the priests should be remembered by pastors and elders who are also called upon to lead their people in undefiled worship and sound instruction.

B. God’s Rebuke of the People for Marital Unfaithfulness (2:10–16)

Not surprisingly, the general population, following the pattern of the spiritual leaders, failed to keep covenant with God. This became apparent in their marriages, which is the subject of the next disputation.

2:10–12. Emphasizing that God is the Father and Creator of Israel (Dt 32:6; Is 63:16; 64:8), Malachi chided Israel for dealing treacherously, a word frequently used for breaking covenant (Ps 78:57; Is 24:16), particularly the marriage covenant (Jr 3:20). This profaned the Abrahamic covenant (Mal 2:10), which made Israel distinct as a people. The first way they were unfaithful was in their selection of pagan foreign women as wives. The issue was not that they married non-Jews (cf. Boaz’s marriage to Ruth, Ru 4:13), but that these women followed other gods (Mal 2:11). As a result, these Jewish husbands followed their wives’ idolatry and profaned the sanctuary. Men who committed the sin of marrying pagans and worshiping their gods would be cut off from the community of Israel (excommunication) "even though" (NIV) they might bring an offering to the temple (2:12).

2:13–16. The second way Israel behaved treacherously was by divorcing their wives in order to marry pagan women (2:14). These actions caused the Lord to break fellowship with them, no longer regard[ing] their offerings or showing them favor (2:13). Frequently considered unintelligible, v. 15 contains the reason for God’s anger. There are four basic interpretations on the meaning of v. 15:

(1) It refers to Abraham taking Hagar ("what did that one [i.e., Abraham] do while he was seeking a godly offspring?" NASB). (2) It refers to the original marriages of those who were divorcing their wives ("Did He not make [you] one [with your wives], and a remnant of that Spirit-created unity [still] belongs to that relationship?"). (3) It refers to God’s creation of Adam and Eve as a monogamous couple (Gn 2:24, "Why did God make for them only one partner, although He had a remainder of the Spirit to create other wives for Adam?"). (4) It refers to God’s original creation of marriage with Adam and Eve as one flesh (Gn 2:24; "Has not [the Lord] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His"; NIV. This requires emending one vowel in the word se’er ["remnant"] to se’ar ["flesh"]). The first view seems unacceptable since it arbitrarily brings Abraham into this context. The second requires far too many glosses to derive the meaning from the actual words of the text. The third makes sense only if the issue were polygamy, not divorce. The fourth view makes the most sense because it explains God’s reason for expecting couples to stay married—they are permanently one in flesh and spirit. Although emending a vowel is required, the vowels were not part of the original Hebrew Bible but were added in the medieval period.

The question then becomes, "Why did God create marriage to be a permanent relationship?" The rest of the verse answers, "He was seeking a godly offspring" (Mal 2:15b). God intended couples to stay together for life because this was the best environment to raise a godly family. Therefore, the Lord was angry with men for divorcing their wives, disrupting marriage as God intended it to be. Concluding that He hate[s] divorce (in Hebrew, the Lord speaks of Himself in the third person), God exhorts Israel’s men to take heed to [their] spirit[s] and end their treacherous behavior toward their Jewish wives.

C. God’s Affirmation of His Justice Seen in Coming Judgment (2:17–3:6)

2:17. The next disputation revolved around God’s justice. As justification for their misbehavior in marriage and divorce, Israel claimed that God had failed them by allowing evil all around them. Therefore, Israel wearied the Lord, complaining that He approved of evil and was uncaring about justice—so why should they care about obedience to Him?

3:1. The Lord responded by promising that judgment and, with it, justice would come. The first aspect of that promise is the prediction of the coming of two different messengers. The first one, My messenger (a play on words of the prophet’s name), refers to Elijah (4:5) who is to announce the coming of the Messiah (Is 40:3–5). The NT quotes this verse of John the Baptist (see comments on Mt 11:10), who functioned in the role of Elijah at Messiah’s first coming, though he was not literally Elijah (Jn 1:21; see comments on Mt 11:13–15). Ultimately, Elijah will literally fulfill this prediction when Messiah returns (Mt 17:11). For those who recognized that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Lk 1:17) and were willing to accept him in Elijah’s role, John functioned in Elijah’s role as forerunner of the Messiah (Mt 11:9–13).

The second messenger, called the messenger of the covenant, was the Lord (the Hb. word ha’adon when used with the definite article always refers to the divine Lord), whom the Jewish people were seeking. The Lord is called the "messenger" or "angel," reminiscent of the angel of the covenant who led Israel in the wilderness, within whom the Lord placed His own name (Ex 23:20–23; 33:14–15), and who was present in all Israel’s afflictions (Is 63:9). Elsewhere, this angel is referred to as the Angel of the Lord, a preincarnate appearance of the divine Lord (Gn 18:1, 22; Ex 3:2–4; Jdg 6:12; 13:2–23; see comments on theophanies at Mc 5:2). Therefore, this angel or messenger is a reference to the Messiah. The covenant spoken of is the Abrahamic covenant, because when Messiah returns at the consummation, all its aspects will be fulfilled. Although Jesus came to the temple many times during His earthly life and ministry, this predicts His coming to the eschatological temple (cf. Zch 6:11–15), because He will arrive in judgment.

3:2–4. Having told those who doubted God’s justice that the Messiah would indeed come, Malachi also reminded them that judgment would fall not just on their enemies but on them as well. No one can endure the day of His coming. When Messiah comes in judgment, He will purify all, from the sons of Levi to all Judah and Jerusalem.

3:5–6. When judgment comes, it will fall on all covenant breakers (3:5). But God’s promise to Israel will keep them from being destroyed. Those crying out for justice must remember that based on God’s justice, Israel should be consumed (3:6)—utterly destroyed in judgment. But though they break His covenant, He will never break His promise. God’s unchanging faithfulness will cause Him to preserve and purify His people.

D. God’s Rebuke of the Nation for Failing to Tithe (3:7–12)

3:7. The next disputation pertained to Israel’s disobedience of the law. Having accused God of being unjust by tolerating evil, the nation felt justified in their breaking of the law. Although the nation had disobeyed since the days of [their] fathers, God graciously offered them restoration if they would return (or repent). The people responded by asking, how shall we return? (3:7). They were not asking how to repent but rather, "How can we repent if we do not know how we have sinned?"

3:8–9. Therefore, the Lord gave a specific example of their disobedience—their failure to give tithes and offerings. The word "offerings" (terumah) likely links this to the temple tithe for the priests (Nm 18:8–32). Their sin was tantamount to robbing God.

3:10–12. Challenging their faith, God called upon them to test Him. If they would give, He promised to pour outblessing so that they would not have blight but rather an abundance of crops. This would produce a great testimony to the surrounding nations—in seeing their abundance, the nations would recognize God’s blessing on Israel.

Three questions are frequently raised regarding the application of this passage today. First, does God require "storehouse" giving, or giving only to one’s local congregation? The NT shows believers giving to other congregations (1Co 16:1–2; 2Co 8:1–5), indicating that giving cannot be restricted to one’s church, and additional giving to other ministries is certainly a good use of money. Second, is tithing (giving 10 percent) still required? Since Paul writes that each believer should give "as he has purposed in his heart" (2Co 9:7) and on the basis of how God has prospered him (1Co 16:2), it appears that 10 percent is not required. However, for believers having experienced God’s grace in the Messiah Jesus, it also seems that 10 percent would be a good starting point for giving, though more affluent believers should regularly give a much higher percent. Finally, will giving result in material benefits? The promise of agricultural blessing is directed to Israel based on their obedience to the law (cf. Dt 28:1–14), a promise tied only to those living under the Mosaic covenant (i.e., it is not guaranteed to those living under the "new covenant"). However, the NT indicates that believers who give generously, sacrificially, and with cheerful hearts will experience spiritual blessings (2Co 9:7–11).

E. God’s Affirmation of the Value of Serving Him (3:13–4:3)

1. The Complaint of the Wicked (3:13–15)

3:13–14. The final dispute between God and Israel concerns the value of serving Him. Since Israel had questioned God’s justice and love, they also questioned the usefulness of serving God. The people spoke (the Hb. Niphal stem indicates a grumbling to one another) against God, using arrogant (lit., "strong") words (3:13). The same Hebrew word was used of Pharaoh’s hard heart (Ex 4:21; 7:13; 7:22; 8:19; 9:12; 9:35; 10:20; 10:27; 11:10) and indicates the rebelliousness of the people. They expressed their attitude by declaring God’s service to be vain ("worthless," "futile," "to no avail") and without profit. This last word is taken from the weaver’s trade and refers to the piece of cloth cut from the loom, hence they asked, "Where is our cut now that we have kept His charge (obeyed God) and walked in mourning (practiced repentance) before God?" (Mal 3:14).

3:15. The evidence they cited for their opinion was that the arrogant wicked were happy (blessed), prosperous (built up), and unpunished (test God and escape) (3:15).

2. The Answer of the Faithful (3:16–18)

3:16. Rather than God answering these rebellious charges, it was those who feared the Lord (meaning those who genuinely revered Him) who responded. Even as the arrogant spread discouragement to each other (3:14), so the faithful also spoke to one another with encouragement (3:16).

3:17–18. They reminded each other that God would remember the faithful (with His book of remembrance, cf. Est 6:1–2); receive them as His own possession (a phrase used of Israel, Ex 19:5–6); and forgive their sin (spare them) (Mal 3:17). In the last day, when God judges the world, He will distinguish between His righteous servants and the wicked (3:18). The great value of serving God will be evident only to those who keep the ultimate rather than the immediate in view.

3. The Judgment of God (4:1–3)

4:1. Malachi spoke of the future day of the Lord, the eschatological time of God’s judgment and restoration (See Jl 3:1–21 and comments there). The day of the Lord has two parts: evening, which is the time of judgment or the tribulation period, followed by day, which is the one-thousand-year reign of Messiah Jesus on this earth. Malachi here describes the "evening" portion as an intense (burning like a furnace), destructive (every evildoer will be chaff), and complete (leav[ing] them neither root nor branch) judgment of the wicked.

4:2–3. When God judges the world, He will also remember those who feared Him. Contrasting the blazing heat that will burn the wicked, God promises the faithful that the sun of righteousness will arise, bringing its warm rays of healing in its wings (4:2). This is often considered a messianic verse. Yet in light of the feminine forms (she will arise with healing in her wings) and the association with kingdom conditions (Is 35:6; 60:1–3; Hs 14:4–7; Am 9:13–15; Zph 3:19–20), it is better to see it using the healing warmth of the sun as a picture of God’s comfort of the righteous in the morning portion of the day of the Lord. Not only will God heal the faithful, He will grant them vindication, so that they tread down the wicked in the day of the Lord.

III. Conclusion: God’s Restoration of Israel (4:4–6)

The conclusion of the book does not follow the disputation model of the other sections. Rather it contains an exhortation and a reminder.

4:4. The exhortation is to remember the law of Moses, a reference to the laws God gave Israel at Mount Horeb (an alternate name for Mount Sinai; cf. Ex 3:1; 19:18–25; 24:16–18; Dt 30:10). Having returned from captivity, the nation was to remember that the Torah remained their constitution and law while they awaited the day of the Lord.

4:5–6. The reminder is to continue to look for the arrival of Elijah. Just as Moses was linked to Mount Horeb, so was the great prophet Elijah, who fled and heard the gentle whisper of God there (1Kg 19:8–14). Even as Moses represented the Law, so Elijah represented the Prophets, significant since the Hebrew Scriptures were sometimes called "the Law and the Prophets" (Mt 7:12; 22:40; Ac 13:15; Rm 3:21).

Previously, Malachi had foretold the coming of "My Messenger" to prepare the way for Messiah (Mal 3:1); now he is explicitly named as Elijah. God will send him before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord (4:5; cf. Jl 2:11ff.), perhaps to function as one of the two witnesses before the return of the Messiah (Rv 11:3–13). He will restore (lit., "turn," the same word used in Mal 3:7 for repentance) the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers (4:6). Rather than seeing this as merely addressing familial reconciliation, Malachi’s use of the word for repentance makes it more likely to refer to the turning of the Jewish people in the latter days to the same faith as the patriarchs (Jn 8:56), their fathers. At that time, the nation will turn to their Messiah Jesus and be fully reconciled to their God (see the comments on Zch 12:10; 13:1; Rm 11:25–27). Israel’s end-of-days repentance will cause God not to smite the land (of Israel) with a curse—rather He will rejuvenate it (Is 35:1–2).

God’s faithful love for Israel is unchanging, just as His love for all who trust in the Messiah Jesus is immutable (Rm 8:38–39). The God who urged Israel, through His prophet Malachi, to live faithfully in light of that love, calls all His people to do the same, even as we await the return of the Messiah.


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Kaiser Jr., Walter C. Malachi: God’s Unchanging Love. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984.

Merrill, Eugene H. An Exegetical Commentary: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Chicago: Moody, 1994.

Smith, Ralph L. Micah–Malachi. Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1984.

Stuart, Douglas. "Malachi." In The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary, vol. 3, edited by Thomas Edward McComiskey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998.

Verhoef, Pieter A. The Books of Haggai and Malachi. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Edited by R. K. Harrison. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.

Wolf, Herbert. Haggai–Malachi: Rededication and Renewal. Chicago: Moody, 1976.


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