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The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic
ON THE BOOKS OF THE
By the REV. JAMES WOLFENDALE
Author of the Commentaries on Deuteronomy and Chronicles
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
LONDON AND TORONTO
ON THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
WITH CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES, INDEXES, ETC., BY VARIOUS AUTHORS
THE WRITER. It has been a subject of doubt whether Malachi was a real or official name. Little is known of his personal history. The Book of Nehemiah does not mention him, “although he was a zealous fellow-labourer with that patriotic governor, and greatly aided him in his endeavours to secure a willing and grateful obedience to the Divine law. In this, however, he does but share the fate of those psalmists who, on the return from captivity, composed many songs for the temple service. They too are unknown to fame. Their songs found a place in the Hebrew Psalter, but no chronicle carried down their names to after ages.” Dead to name and fame, “they are not dead to ‘use.’ Even to this day their works do follow them” [Cox].
THE AGE. According to the tradition of the synagogue, he lived after the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and was contemporary with Nehemiah. This statement is fully borne out by the affinity of the book written by the prophet with that written by the patriot. Both presuppose the temple to have been already built. The same condition of the Jews is described. They both condemn foreign marriages, and enforce the due payment of tithes, which had been neglected. They likewise correct abuses which had crept in with respect to sacrifices, and reprove their countrymen for their want of sympathy with the poor. In all probability, Malachi occupied the same place with respect to Nehemiah which Haggai and Zechariah did with respect to Zerubbabel. That the former was assisted in the discharge of his duties by prophets may be inferred from the charge brought against him by Sanballat (Nehemiah 6:7). He may therefore be conceived of as having flourished somewhere about the year B. C. 420 [Henderson].
THE BOOK. Malachi is composed of four short chapters in English, and three in Hebrew. It is the last of the Minor Prophets, and is called “The Seal of the Prophets.” He completes the Old Testament, and prepares the way for the New, and is therefore fitly called a messenger [cf. Words.]. “Malachi is like a late evening which closes a long day, but he is at the same time the morning twilight which bears in its bosom a glorious day” [Pusey].
THE CONTENTS are chiefly of a threatening character. “The most enforced and orderly division is that which is now generally adopted. The book opens with a brief introduction or preface (chap. Malachi 1:1-4.), the theme of which is, God’s love to Israel a reason for a response of love to him. After the introduction come the three main sections of the book:
1. (from chap. Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:9) on the impiety and profanity of the priests;
2. (from ver. 10 to ver. 16, chap. 2) on the heathen marriages of the priests and people; and
3. (from Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 4:4 on the day of the Lord” [Cox].
THE STYLE differs from the earlier prophets, and the book has been classed in the silver age of the Hebrew language. He lacks the grandeur of Joel and the passion of Habakkuk, and indicates the influence of the Great Synagogue “in his formal and scholastic tone.” “Though his language is pure and beautiful, and has a certain poetic rhythm, he is not so much a poet ‘singing in full-throated ease’ as a scholar elaborating an edifying discourse. It is curious to note how faithful he is to a single form of composition, and that a very simple one, whatever the theme he takes in hand. Invariably, without a single exception, he develops his subject in the following order:—first, he briefly states his thesis; then he states the sceptical objection with which he supposes it may be met; and lastly, he triumphantly refutes the objection” [Cox]. This method is simple, but the meaning deep. He speaks of moral and religious duties to God, and of justice and mercy to man. We are reminded of the thunders of Sinai and the claims of the law. Our thoughts are carried forward to the terrors of the Great Day, and the curse that will fall upon the impenitent. But the Sun of righteousness will shine with unclouded splendour, and the morning star is already seen to announce its advent. Thus at the close of the Old Testament “we get a glimpse of Christ, whom we are to meet and with whom we are to walk in the New Testament; and of the Baptist, who came before him in the power and spirit of Elijah, to prepare his way, and to attest that this was he of whom Moses and the prophets did write.”
the First Week of Advent