The book of Malachi has the final position in the “book of the Twelve,” the grouping of brief prophetic books that had been combined on a single scroll called “The Twelve” in the Hebrew Bible. In the Christian tradition these same books came to be called the “Minor Prophets.” The Greek Septuagint Bible relocated all the prophetic books to comprise the final section of the Greek Old Testament, so that the prophetic words would lead into the New Testament. The Latin Vulgate Bible did the same, as did the KJV. Malachi was thus a fitting conclusion for the Christian Old Testament as he is the prophet who proclaims God saying, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me” (3.1). The Hebrew for “my messenger” is malʾaki, which is also the name of this prophet. In the final section the prophet declares that God will send “Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (4.5), a promise which has definite echoes in the New Testament (Matt 11.14; Mark 9.11-13).
This book originated at some point in the fifth century b.c., well after the completion of the rebuilt temple in the year 515. Malachi calls the people to renewed faithfulness to the covenant with God in a time of rough and miserable conditions and of doubt and uncertainty, corruption and cheating. The promised glorious future that returnees had anticipated now seems remote. Even priests seem to be shirking their duties and the people their offerings. Malachi connects the difficult conditions with the general unfaithfulness, but assures the people that God's love for them will not vary, whatever may come. One thing that will come, he says, is judgment, in the form of the “day of the Lord.” That will be the day when the faithful will find vindication and the unfaithful retribution as God purifies the people like a metalworker refines silver. But first Elijah will come to prepare the way and reunite people.
Malachi Declares God's Love for Israel (1.1-5)
Unfaithful Priests and Broken Promises (1.6—2.17)
God Promises Judgment Like a Refiner's Fire (3.1—4.6)
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