Malachi 1


We know nothing about the prophet Malachi other than what is revealed in the book itself. Malachi is a shortened version of the name ‘Mal`akiy’, meaning ‘the messenger of the Lord.’ Malachi’s name defines the nature of his prophecy in reference to the messenger of the Lord that would be sent before the coming of the Messiah. In fact, the word ‘messenger’ refers to three different individuals in the book.

1. The word ‘messenger’ refers to Malachi himself as the messenger who delivered this message to Israel.

2. The word ‘messenger’ refers to John the Baptist as the messenger who would announce the coming of the Messiah.

3. The word ‘messenger’ refers to the Messiah as the immediate messenger of God.

Malachi is like the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, he’s a ready, aim, fire kind of man, Malachi was direct in his approach and had a no-nonsense approach in telling God’s people where they are going wrong. Oh, how the world can do with more people like him today!

The date

We know the book was written to those who had returned from the captivity in 536 B.C. and were offering sacrifices at the altar, Malachi 1:7-10. Since the people were under a governor, Malachi 1:8, the audience Malachi addressed would have been living while Palestine was still under Medo-Persian control. Some of the priests were setting the wrong example by marrying foreign women, Malachi 2:11, which was a problem that existed during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

And so, with all this internal and external evidence, we can safely come to the conclusion that the Book of Malachi was written sometime during the 5th century B.C. when this problem was prevalent among those who returned from captivity.

Background to the Book

During the middle or latter part of the 5th century, the Near East was still controlled by the Medo-Persian Empire under Artaxerxes, 465-425 B.C. However, the expansion of the Persians to the east was upset by the Greeks. The Greeks dealt a stinging blow of defeat to the Persians at the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.

In 480 B.C., the Greeks made a heroic stand against the Persians at Thermopylae. And then Xerxes was defeated at Plataea in 479 B.C. With these major defeats of the Persians, the Greeks were beginning to rise as the third world empire of the prophecies of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7.

The initial exiles returned in 536 B.C. led by Zerubbabel, to reclaim their homeland possessions in the land of Palestine. Both Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the people to rebuild the temple, which was eventually rebuilt between 520 and 515 B.C. Ezra then rose up and told the people how to live properly and worship according to the Law of God.

In 444 B.C. Nehemiah, who was appointed governor of the land, led another group of exiles from the land of their former captors and encouraged them to start rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In 432 B.C. Nehemiah made a second visit to Jerusalem.

Since Malachi doesn’t mention Nehemiah, we would conclude that his ministry took place before the arrival of Nehemiah, possibly between 460 and 450 B.C.

The culture and economics of the people

It was a time when the ceremonies of the Law were ceremonially offered by a heartless people, they were just going through the motions. They offered animals that weren’t fit to be offered to God, Malachi 1:8. The priests were neglecting their duties, Malachi 2:7-8.

There was intermarriage with foreign women, Malachi 2:11 and it was a time when the people were struggling, so, they complained that God had blessed the nations around them, but had ignored them.

The good news is that they seemed to learn from their history the lesson about idolatry, in fact, they never committed idolatry again after their captivity experience but this was a lesson they had to learn the hard way.

As to why they were taken into captivity for 70 years, Israel had apparently failed to observe the land’s one-year-in-seven sabbath for 490 years, so the term of the Babylonian captivity was set at 70 years to make up the deficit, Leviticus 25:4 / 2 Chronicles 36:21 / Jeremiah 25:11.

Malachi’s message was against those who returned from captivity who had forsaken the Old Testament concerning their behaviour as the chosen people of God.

Through their insincere sacrificial ceremonies and intermarriage with foreign women, they were working against the efforts of God to re-establish Israel in the land as the people of God.

Holman’s Bible Dictionary says the following.

‘The purpose of Malachi was to assure his people that God still loved them, but He demanded honour, respect, and faithfulness from them. Malachi pointed out religious and social abuses and warned that judgment would come to purge the people of sin unless they repented. The style of the Book of Malachi is that of disputations. This style is not unique to Malachi. Micah and Jeremiah had disputes with false prophets, Micah 2:6-11/ Jeremiah 27-28. Jeremiah also disputed with God, Jeremiah 12:1-6. Job disputed with his friends. The Book of Malachi is made up of six disputation passages and two appendices. The disputes follow a regular form. 1. The prophet stated a premise. 2. The hearers challenged the statement, and 3. God and the prophet presented the supporting evidence.’


I. The love of God for Israel, Chapter 1:1-5
II. The priests reproved for profanity, Chapters 1:6-2:9
III. The people rebuked for social sins, Chapter 2:10-17
IV. The prediction of the two messengers, Chapter 3:1-6
V. The people rebuked for religious sins, Chapter 3:7-18
VI. The prediction of the day of the Lord and of the Sun of Righteousness who ushers it in, Chapter 4

The Text

‘A prophecy: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.’ Malachi 1:1

Notice what the K.J.V. says, Malachi 1:1 ‘The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.’

The word ‘burden’ in Hebrew is ‘massa’ and means ‘to lift up’ and although the N.I.V. and other translations use the word, ‘prophecy’ it simply means that Malachi is going to lift up his voice to speak the Word of God to the nation of Israel.

And as we mentioned earlier the name Malachi is the prophet’s name and simply means ‘the messenger of the Lord.’ In other words, Malachi was a messenger of the Lord, with a message from God to the Israelites.

‘I have loved you,” says the LORD. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’ Malachi 1:2-5

Now as we go through this book, you will notice that we find a series of questions, questions asked by God and answered by God.

How have you loved us? Malachi 1:2.
How have we shown contempt for your name? Malachi 1:6.
How have we defiled you? Malachi 1:7.
How have we wearied him? Malachi 2:17.
How are we to return? Malachi 3:7.
How are we robbing you? Malachi 3:8.
What have we said against you? Malachi 3:13.

In other words, God already knows the answers to questions before you ask them. He knows what’s in people’s hearts and minds. Psalm 139:1–5 / John 2:22-25.

Have you ever questioned if someone really loves you? Imagine a man who beats up his wife every night and then says to her, ‘I love you’.

We know that he doesn’t really love her because as the saying goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’. Real love isn’t some fluffy feeling we get inside, love is shown in our actions, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

God straight away, tells Israel that He has loved them and His actions backed up what He was saying. They forgot or didn’t understand that God chose Israel as the nation through whom He would bring the Messiah and Saviour into the world. They forgot or didn’t understand that all the work among the nations throughout the history of Israel, was done for the purpose of preserving Israel until she had fulfilled her destiny of bringing forth the Messiah.

Too often as Christians, we forget or don’t understand how much God loves us and has a purpose for us. Too often we forget what God has done for us in the past, Jeremiah 2:2 / Revelation 2:4.

Malachi’s ministry was to continue the preservation of Israel. Exodus 19.6. God sent Malachi in order to correct the behaviour of the people and to encourage those who feared God. The purpose of their faithfulness to God was to maintain the identity of the people of God through whom the Messiah would come in the future. Genesis 3:15.

The Israelites ask the question, ‘How have you loved us?’

Having gone through the captivities of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, those who returned have become sceptical of God’s work through them as a nation. They were suffering while the nations around them prospered. How often do we ask if God still loves us when difficult times come our way!

Now remember during this period of history, the Israelites were poverty-stricken and because of this, they became discouraged and more or less disillusioned concerning what God was doing through them as a nation.

But notice how God responds to this question, He doesn’t say well, I brought your forefathers out of Egypt or I brought your relatives out of Assyrian and Babylonian captivity. No, God goes way further back than those events, He says ‘do you remember Esau and Jacob!’

God says, ‘yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated’.

Leon Morris, in his commentary of Romans 9:13, says the following.

‘The word hate clearly seems to mean something like ‘loved less’, Genesis 29:31-33 / Deuteronomy 21:15 / Matthew 6:24 / Luke 14:26 / John 12:25. But also says, ‘the real thought here is much more like ‘accepted’ and ‘rejected’ more than it is like our understanding of the terms ‘loved’ and ‘hated.’

God says, ‘you want proof of my love for you’? ‘You want proof that I’m still working in and through you’? ‘I will bring an end to the Edomite nation’.

This would be God’s proof to Israel that He was still working in the lives of His people, to preserve them for the purpose for which He had chosen Jacob, the bringing of the Messiah.

Though Edom would never again exist as a nation, the Idumeans, Edomites, as a people, would reside in the southern part of Palestine. From them would eventually rise the family of the Herods.

Herod the Great, who would be designated by the Romans as the king of Judea before the birth of Christ, would come from the Idumeans. Herod was a ruthless ruler and remember it was he who ordered the killing of all babies under two years old in an attempt to kill Jesus, Matthew 2:16.

God chose Jacob over Esau in order to carry out His eternal plan of redemption, Deuteronomy 7:8 / Hosea 11:1. Since He knew the future of the descendants of both sons of Abraham, He chose Jacob who would produce a better heritage for a nation through whom the blessing promised to Abraham would come, Genesis 12:1-3. Esau wasted his birthright because he didn’t value it, Genesis 25:29-34.

Throughout the struggles of Israel during the years of their captivity, the Edomites demonstrated unacceptable behaviour, Lamentations 4:21-22 / Psalm 137:7 / Ezekiel 25:12.

Though the Edomites might try to reclaim their territory and re-establish their identity, God would work against every effort they made in order to become a nation. Why?

Simply because of her wicked behaviour against Israel and so, Edom would never be permitted to become a nation, this was God’s judgment against the Edomites for their wickedness, Obadiah.

God says, ‘I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.’ God’s preference for Jacob over Esau also extended to their descendants, Joel 3:19.

The Babylonians conquered both the descendants of Jacob and Esau, Jeremiah 25:9 / Jeremiah 25:21, but God restored Israel from exile and at this point, Edom hadn’t been restored.

Edom thought that they would rebuild the ruins, despite being crushed, but God says otherwise, ‘they may build but He will demolish’. The land of Edom would now become known as the ‘Wicked Land’, and those who live there would constantly feel the effects of God’s wrath.

God says, when people from the other nations, that is, those nations outside of Israel, see what God has done to Edom with their own eyes, they will pass by declaring that ‘the LORD is great’. Only Israel would retain its name but the name of Edom will be blotted out of the history books forever.

‘A son honours his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ “By offering defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the LORD Almighty. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.’ Malachi 1:6-10

There’s nothing worse than having a son who doesn’t value or listens to their father. This has been a problem throughout the ages but seems even more so these days, as some kids just don’t respect their parents in general.

I remember the days when I was a kid and did something wrong, someone would say, ‘I know who your father is’!

And that was usually enough for me to stop doing what I was doing. These days the kids just don’t seem to care, ‘tell my dad’ they say, ‘he’ll come over and beat you up anyway.’

Because God was the Father of Israel, Exodus 4:22-23, He deserved the honour that was due to a father. God created the nation of Israel by bringing it out of Egyptian captivity, Malachi 2:10 / Isaiah 64:8 / Jeremiah 31:9.

With a mighty arm, He redeemed Israel, Deuteronomy 32:6 / Isaiah 63:16. And so, if anyone deserved their honour, it was God, He was the Father and Creator of the nation of Israel.

Not only was God their Father, but He was also their Master and Israel was the servant, but once again they weren’t obedient to God as their Master. Since God was their Creator, then He was to be honoured, if He was their Master, then He was to be obeyed.

And so once again the people ask God another question, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

The religious leaders showed disrespect for God as their Creator and Master by not obeying the laws concerning the offerings at the altar. In other words, they totally disregarded God’s laws, and by doing this, showed no respect for God as their Master.

God says you’ve shown no respect because ‘the food you offer on my altar is defiled’.

This was the altar where the animals were sacrificed. By allowing the people to bring blemished animals as their sacrifices to the Lord, the priests were showing disrespect to God by violating the laws concerning sacrifices to be broken. They were offering blind animals, they brought blemished animals to be sacrificed on the altar, Deuteronomy 15:21.

According to the law, only the best of the animals was to be offered as sacrifices to the Lord. Now they possibly may have thought this was only a minor violation of the law, but to God, it was evil.

The people bring their offering for sacrifice but it was the responsibility of the priests to check to see if an animal had any blemishes, if so it was to be rejected.

Leviticus 1-7 gives the most detailed description of Israel’s sacrificial system, including five types of sacrifices. The sacrifices and offerings that were brought by the people were to be the physical expression of their inward devotion.

1. Burnt offering.

The animal for this sacrifice could be a young bull, lamb, goat, turtledove, or young pigeon; but it had to be a perfect and complete specimen. The type of animal chosen for this sacrifice seems to be dependent on the offeror’s financial ability. The one bringing the offering was to lay a hand upon the animal so as to identify that the animal was taking the person’s place and then kill it. The priest then collected the blood and sprinkled it around the altar and the sanctuary, and the worshiper cut up and skinned the animal.

2. Grain offering.

An offering from the harvest of the land is the only type that required no bloodshed. It was composed of fine flour mixed with oil and frankincense. Sometimes, this offering was cooked into cakes prior to taking it to the priest. These cakes, however, had to be made without leaven. Every grain offering had to have salt in it, Leviticus 2:13, perhaps as a symbol of the covenant. Only a portion of this offering was burned on the altar, with the remainder going to the priests.

3. Peace offering.

This consisted of the sacrifice of a bull, cow, lamb, or goat that had no defect. As with the burnt offering, the individual laid a hand on the animal and killed it. The priests, in turn, sprinkled the blood around the altar. Only certain parts of the internal organs were burned.

4. Sin-offering.

This was designed to deal with sin that was committed unintentionally. The sacrifice varied according to who committed the sin. If the priest or the congregation of Israel sinned, then a bull was required. A leader of the people had to bring a male goat, while anyone else sacrificed a female goat or a lamb. The poor were allowed to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons. The one bringing the offering placed a hand on the animal and then slaughtered it.

5. Guilt offering.

This is hard to distinguish from the sin offering, Leviticus 4-5. In Leviticus 5:6-7, the guilt offering is called the sin offering. Both offerings also were made for similar types of sin. The guilt offering was concerned supremely with restitution. Someone who took something illegally was expected to repay it in full plus 20 per cent of the value and then bring a ram for the guilt offering.

The burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt offering composed the basic sacrificial system of Israel. These sacrifices were commonly used in conjunction with each other and were carried out on both an individual and a corporate basis. The sacrificial system taught the necessity of dealing with sin and, at the same time, demonstrated that God had provided a way for dealing with sin.

Malachi is basically rebuking the people for offering the lame and sick animals to God instead of the best, as the Levitical law required and so in effect, the people were defiling the altar and despising God. and so, God asks, would their governor accept these offerings? The obvious answer is No! Who was this governor? This would have been the governor of Palestine who was commissioned by the Persians who controlled the land at this time. Nehemiah 5:14 / Haggai 1:1.

God goes on to warn them of the consequences if they don’t change their attitude towards Him. It would be better not to offer the sacrifice than to offer anything which is contrary to the law of God.

God doesn’t allow substitutes for that which He requires. Galatians 1:6-9 / 2 John 9-10 / Revelation 22:18-19. Now obviously, we don’t offer animal sacrifices today but God still requires us to sacrifice with the proper attitude, John 4:24 / Matthew 22:37 / Hebrews 12:1.

‘Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you. You priests have gotten everyone in trouble. With this kind of conduct, do you think I’ll pay attention to you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you. “Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, emptyheaded worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship!’ Malachi 1:9-10. The Message

God says, if they repent, He would forgive them but He also says, it would be better to shut the doors of the temple than to receive worthless worship. God wasn’t pleased with them and wouldn’t accept their worthless offerings.

‘My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ Malachi 1:11-12

Notice that the words ‘will be’ are in italics, which tells us that they don’t necessarily need to be in the text in the future tense. They were defiling the Lord’s table and God found their food, disgraceful.

Now some people feel that this part of the text, Malachi 1:11, needs to be understood metaphorically, in other words, this reference was pointing to the time of the Messianic era during which those of the church throughout all nations would bring praise to the name of God.

But the passage could also be understood to refer to the time of those Israelites who were living at the time of Malachi’s ministry. The text is simply saying that God doesn’t depend solely on Israel only for praise and glory. Even at the time of Israel’s existence, God was receiving praise and worship from others who weren’t of Israel.

There were those Gentiles by faith who had converted to the faith of Israel. Since the Israelites had been scattered throughout the nations during the captivities, then we can safely assume that they did their work in converting Gentiles to the faith of Abraham.

Since the problem that Malachi approached was with those Jews who were in Palestine at the time of writing, we mustn’t assume that the same problem prevailed with those Jews who were still living in the lands to which they had been taken during the captivity.

Those who were living in the land were violating the ceremonial laws, in reference to sacrifices, but we mustn’t assume that all Jews throughout the Persian Empire were doing the same.

‘And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.’ Malachi 1:13-14

By their violation of God’s laws concerning sacrifice, they were demonstrating their feelings that the law of God was a burden to bear, 1 John 5:3.

Some were bringing stolen animals to the altar, and the priests were excusing their behaviour, Leviticus 3:1 / Leviticus 3:6 / Hosea 4:9. Since the priests displayed a lifestyle of deceit, the people followed their example.

What they were offering displayed the fact that they were being stingy with God. They gave God the leftovers and that which they rejected. In doing so, they displayed their lack of reverence for God.

The word, ‘cursed’ in Hebrew is ‘arar’ and it means to execrate, to loath. In other words, God loathed anyone who offers unacceptable sacrifices.

Remember when Jesus cleared out the money changers and those who were offering animals in the temple for sacrifice? John 2:13-22. Why did Jesus get so angry?

Partly, because the people didn’t bring their own animal sacrifice with them like they were supposed to, the temple had become like a convenience store where people could come along and pick up a bargain.

The Passover sacrifice was supposed to a be personal sacrifice, that’s why the lamb had to stay inside their home until the sacrifice, Exodus 12:3-6.

We have to remember that we too are examples to those around us. If people don’t see that worshipping God with the proper attitude isn’t important to us or if Bible study isn’t important to us, then they won’t think it’s important to them either.

And we too can have a similar attitude towards worship, we come to worship late, we come to worship to receive instead of giving, we just mime the words of the hymns we sing, we don’t really listen to what’s been said, we just come along and go through the ritual of worship!

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