Read sermons on the book of Malachi (commentary here is taken largely from this sermon series but the sermons contain more application)
Author: The name Malachi means “my messenger”which has caused some to believe that it is not the actual name of the author but rather a title given to them. The term has been used in reference to both prophets and priests and thus Malachi could be used as a title of a prophet or even a priest (although this writing would also make him a prophet.) The early Greek translation of this book – the Septuagint – actually translates Malachi 1:1 to say “his messenger” rather use the actual name.
Regardless whether Malachi is the actual name of the author of this book or a title that has been given to an otherwise anonymous writer, we know little else about the person.
Background: Malachi is most likely the last book written in the Old Testament (some place Joel later but not on our timeline.) This makes it God’s final word to the Israelites for 400 years until the coming of Jesus and John the Baptist.
Chronologically Malachi follows the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. After the people return to Jerusalem the temple is rebuilt with the prophetic spurring on of Haggai and Zechariah. Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem almost a generation later to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem and he acts as governor there for some time. Many of the same issues that Nehemiah dealt with are addressed by Nehemiah, suggesting that the two men are not far removed.
Date: Nehemiah returned to Persia in 433 BC and since the governor mentioned in Malachi 1:8 is not likely to be Nehemiah, the writing of this book is probably sometime after 433 BC. It is generally accepted that 400 years took place between the time of Malachi and the birth of Christ but there is not a firm date for the writing of Malachi other than sometime after Nehemiah.
Message: Malachi’s message differs from most of the other prophets because it takes place after the destruction of Israel. Rather than warnings of losing their place as a nation there are warnings for individual sins, particularly dishonoring God. If the leaders of the people would not accept offerings like the Israelites gave, it was foolish to expect God to accept such worthless things.
The second half of the book deals with the coming of the Lord. Depending on one’s perspective, this was either a great thing or a terrifying thing and this is reflected in the writing. For those who had been unfaithful, they had much to be worried about. But for those who continued to serve the Lord, they could look forward to a day when their service and faithful sacrifice would be rewarded.
Key phrases: “But you ask” (“But you say”) appears six times with “say” counting for a sevenths time. This presents the book as a hypothetical conversation between the people and God. It was likely reflective of the attitudes of the people and possibly even incorporated comments that Malachi heard when he delivered his messages to the people.
“Lord Almighty” appears 20 times. This is a clear reminder of who is in charge – it is not the people who were doing as they pleased, it was the Lord Almighty who deserved their respect and fear.