Easton's Bible Dictionary
The contents of the book are comprised in four chapters.
In the Hebrew text the third and fourth chapters (of the A.V.) form but one. The
whole consists of three sections, preceded by an introduction ( Malachi
1:1 - 5
), in which the prophet reminds Israel of Jehovah's love to them. The first section
1:6 - 2:9
) contains a stern rebuke addressed to the priests who had despised the name of
Jehovah, and been leaders in a departure from his worship and from the covenant,
and for their partiality in administering the law. In the second ( Malachi
2:9 - 16
) the people are rebuked for their intermarriages with idolatrous heathen. In
the third ( Malachi
2:17 - 4:6
) he addresses the people as a whole, and warns them of the coming of the God
of judgment, preceded by the advent of the Messiah.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1 - 2. (SEE MALACHI)
The book, in the main, is composed of two extended polemics against the priests
(Malachi 1:6 - 2:9) and the people (Malachi 2:10 - 4:3), opening with a clear,
sharp statement of the prophet's chief thesis that Yahweh still loves Israel (Malachi
1:2 - 5), and closing with an exhortation to remember the Law of Moses (Malachi
4:4 - 6). After the title or superscription (Malachi 1:1) the prophecy falls naturally
into seven divisions:
|(1) Malachi 1:2 - 5, in which Malachi shows that Yahweh
still loves Israel because their lot stands in such marked contrast to Edom's.
They were temporarily disciplined; Edom was forever punished.
(2) Malachi 1:6 - 2:9, a denunciation of the priests, the Levites, who have become
neglectful of their sacerdotal office, indifferent to the Law, and unmindful of
their covenant relationship to Yahweh.
(3) Malachi 2:10 - 16, against idolatry and divorce. Some interpret this section
metaphorically of Judah as having abandoned the religion of his youth (2:11).
But idolatry and divorce were closely related. The people are obviously rebuked
for literally putting away their own Jewish wives in order to contract marriage
with foreigners (2:15). Such marriages, the prophet declares, are not only a form
of idolatry (2:11), but a violation of Yahweh's intention to preserve to Himself
a "godly seed" (2:15).
(4) Malachi 2:17 - 3:6, an announcement of coming judgment. Men are beginning
to doubt whether there is longer a God of justice (2:17). Malachi replies that
the Lord whom the people seek will suddenly come, both to purify the sons of Levi
and to purge the land of sinners in general. The nation, however, will not be
utterly consumed (3:6).
(5) Malachi 3:7 - 12, in which the prophet pauses to give another concrete example
of the people's sins: they have failed to pay their tithes and other dues. Accordingly,
drought, locusts, and famine have ensued. Let these be paid and the nation will
again prosper, and their land will become "a delightsome land."
(6) Malachi 3:13 - 4:3, a second section addressed to the doubters of the prophet's
age. In 2:17, they had said, "Where is the God of justice?" They now murmur: "It
is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept his charge?" The
wicked and the good alike prosper (3:14 , 15). But, the prophet replies, Yahweh
knows them that are His, and a book of remembrance is being kept; for a day of
judgment is coming when the good and the evil will be distinguished; those who
work iniquity will be exterminated, while those who do righteously will triumph.
(7) Malachi 4:4 - 6, a concluding exhortation to obey the Mosaic Law; with a promise
that Elijah the prophet will first come to avert, if possible, the threatened
judgment by reconciling the hearts of the nation to one another, i.e. to reconcile
the ideals of the old to those of the young, and vice versa.
Malachi was content to write prose. His Hebrew is clear and forceful and direct;
sometimes almost rhythmical. His figures are as numerous as should be expected
in the brief remnants of his sermons which have come down to us, and in every
case they are chaste and beautiful (Malachi 1:6 ; 3:2 , 3 , 17 ; 4:1-3). His statements
are bold and correspondingly effective. The most original feature in his style
is the lecture-like method which characterizes his book throughout; more particularly
that of question and answer. His style is that of the scribes. It is known as
the didactic-dialectic method, consisting first of an assertion or charge, then
a fancied objection raised by his hearers, and finally the prophet's refutation
of their objection. Eight distinct examples of this peculiarity are to be found
in his book, each one containing the same clause in Hebrew, "Yet ye say" (Malachi
1:2 , 6 , 7 ; 2:14 , 17 ; 3:7 , 8 , 13). This debating style is especially characteristic
of Malachi. Ewald called it "the dialogistic" method. Malachi shows the influence
of the schools (compare his use of "also" and "again" in Malachi 1:13 ; 2:13,
which is equivalent to our "firstly," "secondly," etc.).
Malachi's message has a permanent value for us as well as an immediate value for
his own time. He was an intense patriot, and accordingly his message was clean-cut
and severe. His primary aim was to encourage a disheartened people who were still
looking for Haggai's and Zechariah's optimistic predictions to be fulfilled. Among
the lessons of abiding value are the following:
|(1) That ritual is an important element in religion, but
not as an end in itself. Tithes and offerings are necessary, but only as the expression
of sincere moral and deeply spiritual life (Malachi 1:11).
(2) That a cheap religion avails nothing, and that sacrifices given grudgingly
are displeasing to God. Better a temple closed than filled with such worshippers
(3) That divorce and intermarriage with heathen idolaters thwarts the purpose
of God in securing to Himself a peculiar people, whose family life is sacred because
it is the nursery of a "godly seed" (Malachi 2:15).
(4) That there is eternal discipline in the Law. Malachi places the greatest emphasis
upon the necessity of keeping the Mosaic Law. The priests, he says, are the custodians
and expounders of the Law. At their mouth the people should seek knowledge. "To
undervalue the Law is easy; to appraise it is a much harder task" (Welch). With
Malachi, no less than with Christ Himself, not one jot or tittle should ever pass
away or become obsolete.
Driver, "Minor Prophets," II, NewCentury Bible (1906); G. A. Smith, "The Book
of the Twelve Prophets," Expositor's Bible (1898); Dods, Post-Exilian Prophets:
"Hag," "Zec," "Mal"; "Handbooks for Bible Classes"; J. M. P. Smith, ICC (1912).
Among the numerous other commentaries on Mal may be mentioned: Eiselen (1907),
Marti (1903), Nowack (1903), Orelli (1908), Wellhausen (1898), Van Hoonacker (1908)
and Isopeocul (1908). The various Introductions to the Old Testament should also
be consulted, notably those by Driver (1910), Strack (1906), Wildeboer (1903),
Gautier (1906), Cornill (1907), Konig (1893); and the articles entitled "Malachi"
in the various Dicts. and Bible Encs: e.g. in Encyclopedia Biblica (1902), by
C. 0. Torrey; in HDB (1901), by A. O. Welch; in 1-vol HDB (1909), by G. G. Cameron;
and RE (1905), by Volck.
George L. Robinson
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of malachi, define, God's love, judgment, old testament, rebuke, sin