It is not inappropriate that Malachi,[1] though not the latest of the prophets, should close the prophetic collection. The concluding words of this book, which predict the coming of the great prophet Elijah, iv.5f, and the apocalyptic tone of Malachi, show that prophecy feels itself unable to cope adequately with the moral situation and is conscious of its own decline. Here, as in Haggai, interest gathers round ritual rather than moral obligation, though the latter is not neglected, iii.5, and the religion for which Malachi pleads is far from being exhausted by ritual. He takes a lofty view, approaching to Jesus' own, of the obligations of the marriage relation, ii.16; and perfunctory ritual he abhors, chiefly because it expresses a deep-seated indifference to God and His claims, iii.8. The clergy or the laity who offer God their lame or blemished beasts are guilty of an offence that goes deeper than ritual. Their whole ideal of religion and service is insulting; they have forgotten that Jehovah is "a great King," i.14. [Footnote 1: Ch. i.1 is late, modelled, like Zech. xii.1 on Zech. ix.1. The word Malachi has no doubt been suggested by Malachi in iii. i (= my messenger). The prophecy is really anonymous.]

The prophecy of Malachi is closely knit together. Addressing a people who doubt the love of their God, he begins by pointing-strangely enough from the Christian standpoint, but intelligibly enough from that of early post-exilic Judaism -- to the desolation of Edom, Judah's enemy (cf. Obadiah) in poof of that love, i.2-5; and asks how Judah has responded to it. The priests present inferior offerings, thus forming, in their insulting indifference, a strange contrast to the untutored heathen hearts all the world over, which offer God pure service; they have put to shame the ancient ideals, i.6-ii.9. The people, too, are as guilty as the priests; for they had divorced their faithful Jewish wives who had borne them children, and married foreign women who were a menace to the purity of the national religion, ii.10-16. Those who are beginning to doubt the moral order because Jehovah does not manifestly interpose as the God of justice, are assured by the prophet that the Lord, preceded by a messenger, is on His way; and He will punish, first the unfaithful priests, and then the unfaithful people, ii.17-iii.5. His apparent indifference to the people is due to their real indifference to Him; if they bring in the tithes, the blessing will come, iii.6-12. As before, ii.17ff., the despondent are assured that Jehovah has not forgotten them; He is writing their names in a book, and when He comes in judgment, the faithful will be spared, and then the difference between the destinies of the good and the bad will be plain for all to see. The wicked shall be trampled under foot, and upon the dark world in which the upright mourn shall arise the sun, from whose gentle rays will stream healing for bruised minds and hearts, iii.13-iv.4. Before that day Elijah will come to heal the dissensions of the home, iv.5, 6. (cf. ii.14).

The atmosphere of the book of Malachi is very much like that of Ezra-Nehemiah. The same problems emerge in both -- foreign marriages, neglect of payment of tithes, etc. But the allusion to the presents given the governor, i.8, shows that the book was not written during the governorship of Nehemiah, who claims to have accepted no presents (Neh. v.14-18). On the other hand, the state of affairs presented by the book is inconceivable after the measures adopted by Ezra and Nehemiah; therefore, Malachi must precede them. Probably however, not by much; it was Malachi and others like-minded who prepared the way for the reformation, and his date may be roughly fixed at 460-450 B.C. Consistently with this, the priests are designated Levites, ii.4, iii.3, as in Deuteronomy; the book must therefore precede the priestly code which sharply distinguishes priests and Levites.

There is an unusual proportion of dialogue in Malachi. Good men are perplexed by the anomalies of the moral order, and they are not afraid to debate them. Malachi's solution is largely, though not exclusively, iii.8-12, apocalyptic; and though in this, as in his emphasis on the cult, iii.4, and his attitude to Edom, i.2ff., he stands upon the level of ordinary Judaism, in other respects he rises far above it. Coming from one to whom correct ritual meant so much, his utterance touching heathen worship is not only refreshingly, but astonishingly bold. In all the Old Testament, there is no more generous outlook upon the foreign world than that of i.11. Though the priests of the temple at Jerusalem insult the name of Jehovah and are wearied with His service, yet "from sunrise to sunset My name is great among the (heathen) nations, and in every place pure offerings are offered to My name; for great is My name among the heathen, saith Jehovah of hosts."

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