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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Bible CommentaryThe Expositor's Bible Commentary

- Malachi

by Editor - William Robertson Nicoll


(539-331 B.C.)

"The exiles returned from Babylon to found not a kingdom, but a church."-KIRKPATRICK.

"Israel is no longer a kingdom, but a colony."


THE next group of the Twelve Prophets-Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and perhaps Joel-fall within the period of the Persian Empire. The Persian Empire was founded on the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus in 539 B.C., and it fell in the defeat of Darius III by Alexander the Great at the battle of Gaugamela, or Arbela, in 331. The period is thus one of a little more than two centuries.

During all this time Israel were the subjects of the Persian monarchs, and bound to them and their civilization by the closest of ties. They owed them their liberty and revival as a separate community upon its own land. The Jewish State-if we may give that title to what is perhaps more truly described as a Congregation or Commune-was part of an empire which stretched from the Aegean to the Indus, and the provinces of which were held in close intercourse by the first system of roads and posts that ever brought different races together. Jews were scattered almost everywhere across this empire. A vast number still remained in Babylon, and there were many at Susa and Ecbatana, two of the royal capitals. Most of these were subject to the full influence of Aryan manners and religion; some were even members of the Persian Court and had access to the Royal Presence. In the Delta of Egypt there were Jewish settlements, and Jews were found also throughout Syria and along the coast, at least, of Asia Minor. Here they touched another civilization, destined to impress them in the future even more deeply than the Persian. It is the period of the struggle between Asia and Europe, between Persia and Greece: the period of Marathon and Thermopylae, of Salamis and Plataea, of Xenophon and the Ten Thousand. Greek fleets occupied Cyprus and visited the Delta. Greek armies-in the pay of Persia-trod for the first time the soil of Syria.

In such a world, dominated for the first time by the Aryan, Jews returned from exile, rebuilt their Temple and resumed its ritual, revived Prophecy and codified the Law: in short, restored and organized Israel as the people of God, and developed their religion to those ultimate forms in which it has accomplished its supreme service to the world.

In this period Prophecy does not maintain that lofty position which it has hitherto held in the life of Israel, and the reasons for its decline are obvious. To begin with, the national life, from which it springs, is of a far poorer quality. Israel is no longer a kingdom, but a colony. The state is not independent: there is virtually no state. The community is poor and feeble, cut off from all the habit and prestige of their past, and beginning the rudiments of life again in hard struggle with nature and hostile tribes. To this level Prophecy has to descend, and occupy itself with these rudiments. We miss the civic atmosphere, the great spaces of public life, the large ethical issues. Instead we have tearful questions, raised by a grudging soil and bad seasons, with all the petty selfishness of hunger-bitten peasants. The religious duties of the colony are mainly ecclesiastical: the building of a temple, the arrangement of ritual, and the ceremonial discipline of the people in separation from their heathen neighbors. We miss, too, the clear outlook of the earlier prophets upon the history of the world, and their calm, rational grasp of its forces. The world is still seen, and even to further distances than before. The people abate no whit of their ideal to be the teachers of mankind. But it is all through another medium. The lurid air of Apocalypse envelops the future, and in their weakness to grapple either politically or philosophically with the problems which history offers, the prophets resort to the expectation of physical catastrophes and of the intervention of supernatural armies. Such an atmosphere is not the native air of Prophecy, and Prophecy yields its supreme office in Israel to other forms of religious development. On one side the ecclesiastic comes to the front-the legalist, the organizer of ritual, the priest; on another, the teacher, the moralist, the thinker, and the speculator. At the same time personal religion is perhaps more deeply cultivated than at any other stage of the people’s history. A large number of lyrical pieces bear proof to the existence of a very genuine and beautiful piety throughout the period.

Unfortunately the Jewish records for this time are both fragmentary and confused; they touch the general history of the world only at intervals, and give rise to a number of difficult questions, some of which are insoluble. The clearest and only consecutive line of data through the period is the list of the Persian monarchs. The Persian Empire, 539-331, was sustained through eleven reigns and two usurpations, of which the following is a chronological table:- B.C. Cyrus (Kurush) the Great 539-529 Cambyses (Kambujiya) 529-522 Pseudo-Smerdis, or Baradis 522 Darius (Darayahush) I, Hystaspis 521-485 Xerxes (Kshayarsha) I 485-464 Artaxerxes (Artakshathra) I, 464-424 Longimanus Xerxes II 424-423 Sogdianus 423 Darius II, Nothus 423-404 Artaxerxes II, Mnemon 404-358 Artaxerxes III, Ochus 358-338 Arses 338-335 Darius III, Codomannus 335-331 Of these royal names, Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes (Ahasuerus), and Artaxerxes are given among the Biblical data; but the fact that there are three Darius’, two Xerxes’ and three Artaxerxes’ makes possible more than one set of identifications, and has suggested different chronological schemes of Jewish history during this period. The simplest and most generally accepted identification of the Darius, Xerxes (Ahasuerus), and Artaxerxes of the Biblical history (Ezra 4:5-7, etc.; Ezra 6:1-14, etc.), is that they were the first Persian monarchs of these names; and after needful rearrangement of the somewhat confused order of events in the narrative of the Book of Ezra, it was held as settled that, while the exiles returned under Cyrus about 537, Haggai and Zechariah prophesied and the Temple was built under Darius I between the second and the sixth year of his reign, or from 520 to 516; that attempts were made to build the walls of Jerusalem under Xerxes I (485-464), but especially under Artaxerxes I (464-424), under whom first Ezra in 458 and then Nehemiah in 445 arrived at Jerusalem, promulgated the Law, and re-organized Israel.

But this has by no means satisfied all modern critics. Some in the interest of the authenticity and correct order of the Book of Ezra, and some for other reasons, argue that the Darius under whom the Temple was built was Darius II, or Nothus, 423-404, and thus bring down the building of the Temple and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah a whole century later than the accepted theory; and that therefore the Artaxerxes under whom Ezra and Nehemiah labored was not the first Artaxerxes, or Longimanus (464-424), but the second, or Mnemon (404-358). This arrangement of the history finds some support in the data, and especially in the order of the data, furnished by the Book of Ezra, which describes the building of the Temple under Darius after its record of events under Xerxes I (Ahasuerus) and Artaxerxes I {Ezra 4:6 - Ezra 5:1-17} But, as we shall see in the next chapter, the Compiler of the Book of Ezra has seen fit, for some reason, to violate the chronological order of the data at his disposal, and nothing reliable can be built upon his arrangement. Unravel his somewhat confused history, take the contemporary data supplied in Haggai and Zechariah, add to them the historical probabilities of the time, and you will find, as the three Dutch scholars Kuenen, Van Hoonacker and Kosters have done, that the rebuilding of the Temple cannot possibly be dated so late as the reign of the second Darius (423-404), but must be left, according to the usual acceptation, under Darius I (521-485). Haggai, for instance, plainly implies that among those who saw the Temple rising were men who had seen its predecessor destroyed in 586, {Haggai 2:3} and Zechariah declares that God’s wrath on Jerusalem has just lasted seventy years. {Zechariah 1:12} Nor (however much his confusion may give grounds to the contrary) can the Compiler of the Book of Ezra have meant any other reign for the building of the Temple than that of Darius I He mentions that nothing was done to the Temple "all the days of Cyrus and up to the reign of Darius": {Ezra 4:5} by this he cannot intend to pass over the first Darius and leap on three more reigns, or a century, to Darius

II. He mentions Zerubbabel and Jeshua both as at the head of the exiles who returned under Cyrus, and as presiding at the building of the Temple under Darius (Ezra 2:2; Ezra 4:1 ff; Ezra 5:2). If alive in 536, they may well have been alive in 521, but cannot have survived till 423. These data are fully supported by the historical probabilities. It is inconceivable that the Jews should have delayed the building of the Temple for more than a century from the time of Cyrus. That the Temple was built by Zerubbabel and Jeshua in the beginning of the reign of Darius 1 may be considered as one of the unquestionable data of our period. But if this be so, then there falls away a great part of the argument for placing the building of the walls of Jerusalem and the labors of Ezra and Nehemiah under Artaxerxes II (404-358) instead of Artaxerxes I It is true that some who accept the building of the Temple under Darius I nevertheless put Ezra and Nehemiah under Artaxerxes II The weakness of their case, however, has been clearly exposed by Kuenen; who proves that Nehemiah’s mission to Jerusalem must have fallen in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I, or 445. "On this fact there can be no further difference of opinion."

These two dates then are fixed: the beginning of the Temple in 520 by Zerubbabel and Jeshua, arid the arrival of Nehemiah at Jerusalem in 445. Other points are more difficult to establish, and in particular there rests a great obscurity on the date of the two visits of Ezra to Jerusalem. According to the Book of Ezra, {Ezra 7:1-8} he went there first in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, or 458 B.C., thirteen years before the arrival of Nehemiah. He found many Jews married to heathen wives, laid it to heart, and called a general assembly of the people to drive the latter out of the community. Then we hear no more of him: neither in the negotiations with Artaxerxes about the building of the walls, nor upon the arrival of Nehemiah, nor in Nehemiah’s treatment of the mixed marriages. He is absent from everything, till suddenly he appears again at the dedication of the walls by Nehemiah and at the reading of the Law. {Nehemiah 12:36; Nehemiah 8:10} This "eclipse of Ezra," as Kuenen well calls it, taken with the mixed character of all the records left of him, has moved some to deny to him and his reforms and his promulgation of the Law any historical reality whatever; while others, with a more sober and rational criticism, have sought to solve the difficulties by another arrangement of the events than that usually accepted. Van Hoonacker makes Ezra’s first appearance in Jerusalem to be at the dedication of the walls and promulgation of the Law in 445, and refers his arrival described in Ezra 7:1-28. and his attempts to abolish the mixed marriages to a second visit to Jerusalem in the twentieth year, not of Artaxerxes I, but of Artaxerxes II, or 398 B.C. Kuenen has exposed the extreme unlikelihood, if not impossibility, of so late a date for Ezra, and in this Kosters holds with him. But Kosters agrees with Van Hoonacker in placing Ezra’s activity subsequent to Nehemiah’s and to the dedication of the walls.

These questions about Ezra have little bearing on our present study of the prophets, and it is not our duty to discuss them. But Kuenen, in answer to Van Hoonacker, has shown very strong reasons for holding in the main to the generally accepted theory of Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem in 458, the seventh year of Artaxerxes I; and though there are great difficulties about the narrative which follows, and especially about Ezra’s sudden disappearance from the scene till after Nehemiah’s arrival, reasons may be found for this.

We are therefore justified in holding, in the meantime, to the traditional arrangement of the great Events in Israel in the fifth century before Christ. We may divide the whole Persian period by the two points we have found to be certain, the beginning of the Temple under Darius I in 520 and the mission of Nehemiah to Jerusalem in 445, and by the other that we have found to be probable, Ezra’s arrival in 458.

On these data the Persian period may be arranged under the following four sections, among which we place those prophets who respectively belong to them:-

1. From the Taking of Babylon by Cyrus to the Completion of the Temple in the sixth year of Darius I, 538-516: Haggai and Zechariah in 520 ff.

2. From the Completion of the Temple under Darius I to the arrival of Ezra in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, 516-458: sometimes called the period of silence, but probably yielding the Book of Malachi.

3. The Work of Ezra and Nehemiah under Artaxerxes I, Longimanus, 458-425.

4. The Rest of the Period, Xerxes II to Darius III 425-33I: the prophet Joel and perhaps several other anonymous fragments of prophecy.

Of these four sections we must now examine the first, for it forms the necessary introduction to our study of Haggai and Zechariah, and above all it raises a question almost greater than any of those we have just been discussing. The fact recorded by the Book of Ezra, and till a few years ago accepted without doubt by tradition and modern criticism, the first Return of Exiles from Babylon under Cyrus, has lately been altogether denied; and the builders of the Temple in 520 have been asserted to be, not returned exiles, but the remnant of Jews left in Judah by Nebuchadrezzar in 586. The importance of this for our interpretation of Haggai and Zechariah, who instigated the building of the Temple, is obvious: we must discuss the question in detail.


(536-516 B.C.).

CYRUS the Great took Babylon and the Babylonian Empire in 539. Upon the eve of his conquest the Second Isaiah had hailed him as the Liberator of the people of God and the builder of their Temple. The Return of the Exiles and the Restoration both of Temple and City were predicted by the Second Isaiah for the immediate future; and a Jewish historian, the Compiler of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, who lived about 300 B.C., has taken up the story of how these events came to pass from the very first year of Cyrus onward. Before discussing the dates and proper order of these events, it will be well to have this Chronicler’s narrative before us. It lies in the first and following chapters of our Book of Ezra.

According to this, Cyrus, soon after his conquest of Babylon, gave permission to the Jewish exiles to return to Palestine, and between forty and fifty thousand did so return, bearing the vessels of Jehovah’s house which the Chaldeans had taken away in 586. These Cyrus delivered "to Sheshbazzar, prince of Judah" {Ezra 1:8} who is further described in an Aramaic document, incorporated by the Compiler of the Book of Ezra as "Pehah," or "provincial governor," {Ezra 5:14} and as laying the foundation of the Temple, and there is also mentioned in command of the people a Tirshatha, probably the Persian Tarsata, {Ezra 2:63} which also means "provincial governor." Upon their arrival at Jerusalem, the date of which will be immediately discussed, the people are said to be under Jeshu’a ben Josadak and Zerubbabel ben She’alti’el who had already been mentioned as the head of the returning exiles, {Ezra 2:2} and who is called by his contemporary Haggai Pehah, or "governor, of Judah." Are we to understand by Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel one and the same person? Most critics have answered in the affirmative, believing that Sheshbazzar is but the Babylonian or Persian name by which the Jew Zerubbabel was known at court; and this view is supported by the facts that Zerubbabel was of the house of David and is called Pehah by Haggai, and by the argument that the command given by the Tirshatha to the Jews to abstain from "eating the most holy things" {Ezra 2:63} could only have been given by a native Jew. But others, arguing that Ezra 5:1, compared with Ezra 5:14 and Ezra 5:16, implies that Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar were two different persons, take the former to have been the most prominent of the Jews themselves, but the latter an official, Persian or Babylonian, appointed by Cyrus to carry out such business in connection with the Return as could only be discharged by an imperial officer. This is, on the whole, the more probable theory.

If it is right, Sheshbazzar, who superintended the Return, had disappeared from Jerusalem by 521, when Haggai commenced to prophesy, and had been succeeded as Pehah, or governor, by Zerubbabel. But in that case the Compiler has been in error in calling Sheshbazzar "a prince of Judah." {Ezra 1:8}

The next point to fix is what the Compiler considers to have been the date of the Return. He names no year, but he recounts that the same people, whom he has just described as receiving the command of Cyrus to return, did immediately leave Babylon, and he says that they arrived at Jerusalem in "the seventh month," but again without stating a year. In any case, he obviously intends to imply that the Return followed immediately on reception of the permission to return, and that this was given by Cyrus very soon after his occupation of Babylon in 539-8. We may take it that the Compiler understood the year to be that we know as 537 B.C. He adds that, on the arrival of the caravans from Babylon, the Jews set up the altar on its old site and restored the morning and evening sacrifices; that they kept also the Feast of Tabernacles, and thereafter all the rest of the feasts of Jehovah; and further, that they engaged masons and carpenters for building the Temple, and Phoenicians to bring them cedar wood from Lebanon. {Ezra 3:3-7}

Another section from the Compiler’s hand states that the returned Jews set to work upon the Temple "in the second month of the second year" of their Return, presumably 536 B.C., laying the foundation-stone with due pomp, and amid the excitement of the whole people. Whereupon certain "adversaries," by whom the Compiler means Samaritans, demanded a share in the building of the Temple, and when Joshua and Zerubbabel refused this, "the people of the land" frustrated the building of the Temple even until the reign of Darius, 521 ff.

This-the second year of Darius-is the point to which contemporary documents, the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, assign the beginning of new measures to build the Temple. Of these the Compiler of the Book of Ezra says in the meantime nothing, but after barely mentioning the reign of Darius leaps at once {Ezra 4:7} to further Samaritan obstructions- though not of the building of the Temple (be it noted), but of the building of the city walls-in the reigns of Ahasuerus, that is Xerxes, presumably Xerxes I, the successor of Darius, 485-464, and of his successor Artaxerxes I, 464-424; the account of the latter of which he gives not in his own language, but in that of an Aramaic document, Ezra 4:8 ff. And this document, after recounting how Artaxerxes empowered the Samaritans to stop the building of the walls of Jerusalem, records (Ezra 4:24) that the building ceased "till the second year of the reign of Darius," when the prophets Haggai and Zechariah stirred up Zerubbabel and Joshua to rebuild, not the city walls, be it observed, but the Temple, and with the permission of Darius this building was at last completed in his sixth year. {Ezra 4:24 - Ezra 6:15} That is to say, this Aramaic document brings us back, with the frustrated building of the walls under Xerxes I and Artaxerxes I (485-424), to the same date under their predecessor Darius I, viz. 520, to which the Compiler had brought down the frustrated building of the Templet The most reasonable explanation of this confusion, not only of chronology, but of two distinct processes-the erection of the Temple and the fortification of the city-is that the Compiler was misled by his desire to give as strong an impression as possible of the Samaritan obstructions by placing them all together. Attempts to harmonize the order of his narrative with the ascertained sequence of the Persian reigns have failed.

Such then is the character of the compilation known to us as the Book of Ezra. If we add that in its present form it cannot be of earlier date than 300 B.C., or two hundred and thirty-six years after the Return, and that the Aramaic document which it incorporates is probably not earlier than 430, or one hundred years after the Return, while the List of Exiles which it gives (in chapter 2.) also contains elements that cannot be earlier than 430, we shall not wonder that grave doubts should have been raised concerning its trustworthiness as a narrative.

These doubts affect, with one exception, all the great facts which it professes to record. The exception is the building of the Temple between the second and sixth years of Darius I, 520-516, which we have already seen to be past doubt. But all that the Book of Ezra relates before this has been called in question, and it has been successively alleged:

(1) that there was no such attempt as the book describes to build the Temple before 520,

(2) that there was no Return of Exiles at all under Cyrus, and that the Temple was not built by Jews who had come from Babylon, but by Jews who had never left Judah.

These conclusions, if justified, would have the most important bearing upon our interpretation of Haggai and Zechariah. It is therefore necessary to examine them with care. They were reached by critics in the order just stated, but as the second is the more sweeping and to some extent involves the other, we may take it first.

1. Is the Book of Ezra, then, right or wrong in asserting that there was a great return of Jews, headed by Zerubbabel and Jeshua, about the year 536, and that it was they who in 520-516 rebuilt the Temple?

The argument that in recounting these events the Book of Ezra is unhistorical has been fully stated by Professor Kosters of Leiden. He reaches his conclusion along three lines of evidence: the Books of Haggai and Zechariah, the sources from which he believes the Aramaic narrative Ezra 5:1-17; Ezra 6:1-18 to have been compiled, and the list of names in Ezra 2:1-70. In the Books of Haggai and Zechariah, he points out that the inhabitants of Jerusalem whom the prophets summon to build the Temple are not called by any name which implies that they are returned exiles; that nothing in the description of them would lead us to suppose this; that God’s anger against Israel is represented as still unbroken; that neither prophet speaks of a Return as past, but that Zechariah seems to look for it as still to come. The second line of evidence is an analysis of the Aramaic document, Ezra 5:6 ff., into two sources, neither of which implies a Return under Cyrus. But these two lines of proof cannot avail against the List of Returned Exiles offered us in Ezra 2:1-70 and Nehemiah 7:1-73, if the latter be genuine. On his third line of evidence, Dr. Kosters, therefore, disputes the genuineness of this List, and further denies that it even gives itself out as a List of Exiles returned under Cyrus. So he arrives at the conclusion that there was no Return from Babylon under Cyrus, nor any before the Temple was built in 520 ff., but that the builders were "people of the land," Jews who had never gone into exile.

The evidence which Dr. Kosters draws from the Book of Ezra least concerns us. Both because of this and because it is the weakest part of his case, we may take it first.

Dr. Kosters analyses the bulk of the Aramaic document, Ezra 5:1-17 - Ezra 6:18, into two constituents. His arguments for this are very precarious. The first document, which he takes to consist of Ezra 5:1-5; Ezra 5:10, with perhaps Ezra 6:6-15 (except a few phrases), relates that Thathnai, Satrap of the West of the Euphrates, asked Darius whether he might allow the Jews to proceed with the building of the Temple, and received command not only to allow, but to help them, on the ground that Cyrus had already given them permission. The second, Ezra 5:11-17; Ezra 6:1-3, affirms that the building had actually begun under Cyrus, who had sent Sheshbazzar, the Satrap, to see it carried out. Neither of these documents says a word about any order from Cyrus to the Jews to return: and the implication of the second, that the building had gone on uninterruptedly from the time of Cyrus’ order to the second year of Darius, {Ezra 5:16} is not in harmony with the evidence of the Compiler of the Book of Ezra, who, as we have seen, states that Samaritan obstruction stayed the building till the second year of Darius.

But suppose we accept Koster’s premises and agree that these two documents really exist within Ezra 5:1-17 - Ezra 6:18. Their evidence is not irreconcilable. Both imply that Cyrus gave command to rebuild the Temple; if they were originally independent that would but strengthen the tradition of such a command, and render a little weaker Dr. Kosters’ contention that the tradition arose merely from a desire to find a fulfillment of the Second Isaiah’s predictions that Cyrus would be the Temple’s builder. That neither of the supposed documents mentions the Return itself is very natural, because both are concerned with the building of the Temple. For the Compiler of the Book of Ezra, who on Kosters’ argument put them together, the interest of the Return is over; he has already sufficiently dealt with it. But more-Kosters’ second document, which ascribes the building of the Temple to Cyrus, surely by that very statement implies a Return of Exiles during his reign. For is it at all probable that Cyrus would have committed the rebuilding of the Temple to a Persian magnate like Sheshbazzar, without sending with him a large number of those Babylonian Jews who must have instigated the king to give his order for rebuilding? We may conclude then that Ezra 5:1-17 - Ezra 6:18, whatever be its value and its date, contains no evidence, positive or negative, against a Return of the Jews under Cyrus, but, on the contrary, takes this for granted.

We turn now to Dr. Kosters’ treatment of the so-called List of the Returned Exiles. He holds this List to have been, not only borrowed for its place in Ezra 2:1-70 from Nehemiah 7:1-73, but even interpolated in the latter. His reasons for this latter conclusion are very improbable, as will be seen from the appended note, and really weaken his otherwise strong case.

As to the contents of the List, there are, it is true, many elements which date from Nehemiah’s own time and even later. But these are not sufficient to prove that the List was not originally a List of Exiles returned, under Cyrus. The verses in which this is asserted- Ezra 2:1-2 Nehemiah 7:6-7 -plainly intimate that those Jews who came up out of the Exile were the same who built the Temple under Darius. Dr. Kosters endeavors to destroy the force of this statement (if true so destructive of his theory) by pointing to the number of the leaders which the List assigns to the returning exiles. In fixing this number as twelve, the author, Kosters maintains, intended to make the leaders representative of the twelve tribes and the body of returned exiles as equivalent to All-Israel. But, he argues, neither Haggai nor Zechariah considers the builders of the Temple to be equivalent to All-Israel, nor was this conception realized in Judah till after the arrival of Ezra with his bands. The force of this argument is greatly weakened by remembering how natural it would have been for men, who felt the Return under Cyrus, however small, to be the fulfillment of the Second Isaiah’s glorious predictions of the restoration of All-Israel, to appoint twelve leaders, and to make them representative of the nation as a whole. Kosters’ argument against the naturalness of such an appointment in 537, and therefore against the truth of the statement of the List about it, falls to the ground.

But in the Books of Haggai and Zechariah Dr. Kosters finds much more formidable witnesses for his thesis that there was no Return of Exiles from Babylon before the building of the Temple under Darius. These books nowhere speak of a Return under Cyrus, nor do they call the community who built the Temple by the names of Golah or B’ne ha-Golah, "Captivity" or "Sons of the Captivity," which are given after the Return of Ezra’s bands; but they simply name them "this people" {Haggai 1:2; Haggai 2:14} or "remnant of the people," {Haggai 1:12; Haggai 2:2 Zechariah 9:6; Zechariah 9:11-12} "people of the land," {Haggai 2:4 Zechariah 7:5} "Judah" or "House of Judah," {Zechariah 8:13} names perfectly suitable to Jews who had never left the neighborhood of Jerusalem. Even if we except from this list the phrase "the remnant of the people," as intended by Haggai and Zechariah in the numerical sense of "the rest" or "all the others," we have still to deal with the other titles, with the absence from them of any symptom descriptive of return from exile, and with the whole silence of our two prophets concerning such a return. These are very striking phenomena, and they undoubtedly afford considerable evidence for Dr. Kosters’ thesis. But it cannot escape notice that the evidence they afford is mainly negative, and this raises two questions:

(1) Can the phenomena in Haggai and Zechariah be accounted for? and

(2) whether accounted for or not, can they be held to prevail against the mass of positive evidence in favor of a Return under Cyrus?

An explanation of the absence of all allusion in Haggai and Zechariah to the Return is certainly possible.

No one can fail to be struck with the spirituality of the teaching of Haggai and Zechariah.

Their one ambition is to put courage from God into the poor hearts before them, that these out of their own resources may rebuild their Temple. As Zechariah puts it, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith Jehovah of Hosts." {Zechariah 4:4} It is obvious why men of this temper should refrain from appealing to the Return, or to the royal power of Persia by which it had been achieved. We can understand why, while the annals employed in the Book of Ezra record the appeal of the political leaders Of the Jews to Darius upon the strength of the edict of Cyrus, the prophets, in their effort to encourage the people to make the most of what they themselves were and to enforce the omnipotence of God’s Spirit apart from all human aids, should be silent about the latter. We must also remember that Haggai and Zechariah were addressing a people to whom (whatever view we take of the transactions under Cyrus) the favor of Cyrus had been one vast disillusion in the light of the predictions of Second Isaiah. The Persian magnate Sheshbazzar himself, invested with full power, had been unable to build the Temple for them, and had apparently disappeared from Judah, leaving his powers as Pehah, or governor, to Zerubbabel. Was it not, then, as suitable to these circumstances, as it was essential to the prophets’ own religious temper, that Haggai and Zechariah should refrain from alluding to any of the political advantages to which their countrymen had hitherto trusted in vain?

Another fact should be marked. If Haggai is silent about any return from exile in the past, he is equally silent about any in the future. If for him no return had yet taken place, would he not have been likely to predict it as certain to happen? At least his silence on the subject proves how absolutely he confined his thoughts to the circumstances before him, and to the needs of his people at the moment he addressed them. Kosters, indeed, alleges that Zechariah describes the Return from Exile as still future-viz., in the lyric piece appended to his Third Vision. But, as we shall see when we come to it, this lyric piece is most probably an intrusion among the Visions, and is not to be assigned to Zechariah himself. Even, however, if it were from the same date and author as the Visions, it would not prove that no return from Babylon had taken place, but only that numbers of Jews still remained in Babylon.

But we may now take a further step. If there were these natural reasons for the silence of Haggai and Zechariah about a return of exiles under Cyrus, can that silence be allowed to prevail against the mass of testimony which we have that such a return took place? It is true that, while the Books of Haggai and Zechariah are contemporary with the period in question, some of the evidence for the Return, Ezra 1:1; Ezra 3:1-13 - Ezra 4:7, is at least two centuries later, and upon the date of the rest, the List in Ezra and the Aramaic document in Ezra 4:8 ff., we have no certain information. But that the List is from a date very soon after Cyrus is allowed by a large number of the most advanced critics, and even if we ignore it, we still have the Aramaic document, which agrees with Haggai and Zechariah in assigning the real, effectual beginning of the Temple-building to the second year of Darius and to the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua at the instigation of the two prophets. May we not trust the same document in its relation of the main facts concerning Cyrus? Again, in his memoirs Ezra {Ezra 9:4. Ezra 10:6-7} speaks of the transgressions of the Golah or B’ne ha-Golah in effecting marriages with the mixed people of the land, in a way which shows that he means by the name, not the Jews who had just come up with himself from Babylon, but the older community whom he found in Judah, and who had had time, as his own bands had not, to scatter over the land and enter into social relations with the heathen.

But, as Kuenen points out, we have yet further evidence for the probability of a Return under Cyrus in the explicit predictions of the Second Isaiah that Cyrus would be the builder of Jerusalem and the Temple. "If they express the expectation, nourished by the prophet and his contemporaries, then it is clear from their preservation for future generations that Cyrus did not disappoint the hope of the exiles, from whose midst this voice pealed forth to him." And this leads to other considerations. Whether was it more probable for the poverty-stricken "people of the land," the dregs which Nebuchadrezzar had left behind, or for the body and flower of Israel in Babylon to rebuild the Temple? Surely for the latter. Among them had risen, as Cyrus drew near to Babylon, the hopes and the motives, nay, the glorious assurance of the Return and the Rebuilding; and with them was all the material for the latter. Is it credible that they took no advantage of their opportunity under Cyrus? Is it credible that they waited nearly a century before seeking to return to Jerusalem, and that the building of the Temple was left to people who were half-heathen, and, in the eyes of the exiles, despicable and unholy? This would be credible only upon one condition, that Cyrus and his immediate successors disappointed the predictions of the Second Isaiah and refused to allow the exiles to leave Babylon. But the little we know of these Persian monarchs points all the other way: nothing is more probable, for nothing is more in harmony with Persian policy, than that Cyrus should permit the captives of the Babylon which he conquered to return to their own lands.

Moreover, we have another, and to the mind of the present writer an almost conclusive argument, that the Jews addressed by Haggai and Zechariah were Jews returned from Babylon. Neither prophet ever charges his people with idolatry; neither prophet so much as mentions idols. This is natural if the congregation addressed was composed of such pious and ardent adherents of Jehovah as His word had brought back to Judah, when His servant Cyrus opened the way. But had Haggai and Zechariah been addressing "the people of the land," who had never left the land, they could not have helped speaking of idolatry.

Such considerations may very justly be used against an argument which seeks to prove that the narratives of a Return under Cyrus were due to the pious invention of a Jewish writer who wished to record that the predictions of the Second Isaiah were fulfilled by Cyrus, their designated trustee. They certainly possess a far higher degree of probability than that argument does.

Finally there is this consideration. If there was no return from Babylon under Cyrus, and the Temple, as Dr. Kosters alleges, was built by the poor people of the land, is it likely that the latter should have been regarded with such contempt as they were by the exiles who returned under Ezra and Nehemiah? Theirs would have been the glory of reconstituting Israel, and their position very different from what we find it.

On all these grounds, therefore, we must hold that the attempt to discredit the tradition of an important return of exiles under Cyrus has not been successful; that such a return remains the more probable solution of an obscure and difficult problem; and that therefore-the Jews who with Zerubbabel and Jeshua are represented in Haggai and Zechariah as building the Temple in the second year of Darius, 520, had come up from Babylon about 537. Such a conclusion, of course, need not commit us to the various data offered by the Chronicler in his story of the Return, such as the Edict of Cyrus, nor to all of his details.

2. Many, however, who grant the correctness of the tradition that a large number of Jewish exiles returned under Cyrus to Jerusalem, deny the statement of the Compiler of the Book of Ezra that the returned exiles immediately prepared to build the Temple and laid the foundation-stone with solemn festival, but were hindered from proceeding with the building till the second year of Darius. {Ezra 3:8-13} They maintain that this late narrative is contradicted by the contemporary statements of. Haggai and Zechariah, who, according to them, imply that no foundation-stone was laid till 520 B.C. For the interpretation of our prophets this is not a question of cardinal importance. But for clearness’ sake we do well to lay it open.

We may at once concede that in Haggai and Zechariah there is nothing which necessarily implies that the Jews had made any beginning to build the Temple before the start recorded by Haggai in the year 520. The one passage, Haggai 2:18, which is cited to prove this is at the best ambiguous, and many scholars claim it as a fixture of that date for the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of 520. At the same time, and even granting that the latter interpretation of Haggai 2:18 is correct, there is nothing in either Haggai or Zechariah to make it impossible that a foundation-stone had been laid some years before, but abandoned in consequence of the Samaritan obstruction, as alleged in Ezra 3:8-11. If we keep in mind Haggai’s and Zechariah’s silence about the Return from Babylon, and their very natural concentration upon their own circumstances, we shall not be able to reckon their silence about previous attempts to build the Temple as a conclusive proof that these attempts never took place. Moreover, the Aramaic document, which agrees with our two prophets in assigning the only effective start of the work on the Temple to 520 {Ezra 4:24; Ezra 5:1} does not deem it inconsistent with this to record that the Persian Satrap of the West of the Euphrates {Ezra 5:6} reported to Darius that, when he asked the Jews why they were rebuilding the Temple, they replied not only that a decree of Cyrus had granted them permission, but that his legate Sheshbazzar had actually laid the foundation-stone upon his arrival at Jerusalem, and that the building had gone on without interruption from that time to 520. This last assertion, which of course was false, may have been due either to a misunderstanding of the Jewish elders by the reporting Satrap, or else to the Jews themselves, anxious to make their case as strong as possible. The latter is the more probable alternative. As even Stade admits, it was a very natural assertion for the Jews to make, and so conceal that their effort of 520 was due to the instigation of their own prophets. But in any case the Aramaic document corroborates the statement of the Compiler that there was a foundation-stone laid in the early years of Cyrus, and does not conceive this to be inconsistent with its own narrative of a stone being laid in 520, and an effective start at last made upon the Temple works. So much does Stade feel the force of this that he concedes not only that Sheshbazzar may have started some preparation for building the Temple, but that he may even have laid the stone with ceremony.

And indeed, is it not in itself very probable that some early attempt was made by the exiles returned under Cyrus to rebuild the house of Jehovah? Cyrus had been predicted by the Second Isaiah not only as the redeemer of God’s people, but with equal explicitness as the builder of the Temple; and all the argument which Kuenen draws from the Second Isaiah for the fact of the Return from Babylon tells with almost equal force for the fact of some efforts to raise the fallen sanctuary of Israel immediately after the Return. Among the returned were many priests, and many no doubt of the most sanguine spirits in Israel. They came straight from the heart of Jewry, though that heart was in Babylon; they came with the impetus and obligation of the great Deliverance upon them; they were the representatives of a community which we know to have been comparatively wealthy. Is it credible that they should not have begun the Temple at the earliest possible moment?

Nor is the story of their frustration by the Samaritans any less natural. It is true that there were not any adversaries likely to dispute with the colonists the land in the immediate neighborhood of Jerusalem. The Edomites had overrun the fruitful country about Hebron, and part of the Shephelah. The Samaritans held the rich valleys of Ephraim, and probably the plain of Ajalon. But if any peasants struggled with the stony plateaus of Benjamin and Northern Judah, such must have been of the remnants of the Jewish population who were left behind by Nebuchadrezzar, and who clung to the sacred soil from habit or from motives of religion. Jerusalem was never a site to attract men, either for agriculture, or, now that its shrine was desolate and its population scattered, for the command of trade. The returned exiles must have been at first undisturbed by the envy of their neighbors. The tale is, therefore, probable which attributes the hostility of the latter to purely religious causes-the refusal of the Jews to allow the half-heathen Samaritans to share in the construction of the Temple. {Ezra 4:1-24} Now the Samaritans could prevent the building. While stones were to be had by the builders in profusion from the ruins of the city and the great quarry to the north of it, ordinary timber did not grow in their neighborhood, and though the story be true that a contract was already made with Phoenicians to bring cedar to Joppa, it had to be carried thence for thirty-six miles. Here, then, was the opportunity of the Samaritans. They could obstruct the carriage both of the ordinary timber and of the cedar. To this state of affairs the present writer found an analogy in 1891 among the Circassian colonies settled by the Turkish Government a few years earlier in the vicinity of Gerasa and Rabbath-Ammon. The colonists had built their houses from the numerous ruins of these cities, but at Rabbath-Ammon they said their great difficulty had been about timber. And we could well understand how the Beduin, who resented the settlement of Circassians on lands they had used for ages, and with whom the Circassians were nearly always at variance, did what they could to make the carriage of timber impossible. Similarly with the Jews and their Samaritan adversaries. The site might be cleared arid the stone of the Temple laid, but if the timber was stopped there was little use in raising the walls, and the Jews, further discouraged by the failure of their impetuous hopes of what the Return would bring them, found cause for desisting from their efforts. Bad seasons followed, the labors for their own sustenance exhausted their strength, and in the sordid toil their hearts grew hard to higher interests. Cyrus died in 529, and his legate Sheshbazzar, having done nothing but lay the stone, appears to have left Judea. Cambyses marched more than once through Palestine, and his army garrisoned Gaza, but he was not a monarch to have any consideration for Jewish ambitions. Therefore-although Samaritan opposition ceased on the stoppage of the Temple works and the Jews procured timber enough for their private dwellings, -is it wonderful that the site of the Temple should be neglected and the stone laid by Sheshbazzar forgotten, or that the disappointed Jews should seek to explain the disillusions of the Return by arguing that God’s time for the restoration of His house bad not yet come?

The death of a cruel monarch is always in the East an occasion for the revival of shattered hopes, and the events which accompanied the suicide of Cambyses in 522 were particularly fraught with the possibilities of political change. Cambyses’ throne had been usurped by one Gaumata, who pretended to be Smerdis or Barada, a son of Cyrus. In a few months Gaumata was slain by a conspiracy of seven Persian nobles, of whom Darius, the son of Hystaspes both by virtue of his royal descent and his own great ability, was raised to the throne in 521. The empire had been too profoundly shocked by the revolt of Gaumata to settle at once under the new king, and Darius found himself engaged by insurrections in all his provinces except Syria and Asia Minor. The colonists in Jerusalem, like all their Syrian neighbors, remained loyal to the new king; so loyal that their Pehah or Satrap was allowed to be one of themselves-Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, a son of their royal house. Yet though they were quiet, the nations were rising against each other and the world was shaken. It was just such a crisis as had often before in Israel reawakened prophecy. Nor did it fail now; and when prophecy was roused what duty lay more clamant for its inspiration than the duty of building the Temple?

We are in touch with the first of our post-exilic prophets, Haggai and Zechariah.


"Have we not all One Father? Why then are we unfaithful to each other?"

"The lips of a Priest guard knowledge, and men seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the Angel of Jehovah of Hosts."


THIS book, the last in the arrangement of the prophetic canon, bears the title: "Burden" or "Oracle of the Word of Jehovah to Israel by the hand of male’akhi." Since at least the second century of our era the word has been understood as a proper name, Malachi, or Malachias. But there are strong objections to this, as well as to the genuineness of the whole title, and critics now almost universally agree that the book was originally anonymous.

It is true that neither in form nor in meaning is there any insuperable obstacle to our understanding "male’akhi" as the name of a person. If so, however, it cannot have been, as some have suggested, an abbreviation of Male’akhiyah, for, according to the analogy of other names of such formation, this could only express the impossible meaning "Jehovah is Angel." But, as it stands, it might have meant "My Angel" or "Messenger," or it may be taken as an adjective, "Angelicus." Either of these meanings would form a natural name for a Jewish child, and a very suitable one for a prophet. There is evidence, however, that some of the earliest Jewish interpreters did not think of the title as containing the name of a person. The Septuagint read "by the hand of His messenger," "male’akho"; and the Targum of Jonathan, while retaining "male’akhi," rendered it "My messenger," adding that it was Ezra the Scribe who was thus designated. This opinion was adopted by Calvin.

Recent criticism has shown that, whether the word was originally intended as a personal name or not, it was a purely artificial one borrowed from Malachi 3:1, "Behold, I send My messenger," "male’akhi," for the title, which itself has been added by the editor of the Twelve Prophets in the form in which we now have them. The peculiar words of the title, "Burden" or "Oracle of the Word of Jehovah," occur nowhere else than in the titles of the two prophecies which have been appended to the Book of Zechariah, Zechariah 9:1 and Zechariah 12:1, and immediately precede this book of "Malachi." In Zechariah 9:1 "the Word of Jehovah" belongs to the text; "Burden" or "Oracle" has been inserted before it as a title; then the whole phrase has been inserted as a title in Zechariah 12:1. These two pieces are anonymous, and nothing is more likely than that another anonymous prophecy should have received, when attached to them, the same heading. The argument is not final, but it is the most probable explanation of the data, and agrees with the other facts. The cumulative force of all that we have stated-the improbability of male’akhi being a personal name, the fact that the earliest versions do not treat it as such, the obvious suggestion for its invention in the male’akhi of Malachi 3:1, the absence of a father’s name and place of residence, and the character of the whole title-is enough for the opinion rapidly spreading among critics that our book was, like so much more in the Old Testament, originally anonymous. The author attacks the religious authorities of his day; he belongs to a pious remnant of his people, who are overborne and perhaps oppressed by the majority. {Malachi 3:16 ff.} In these facts, which are all we know of his personality, he found sufficient reason for not attaching his name to his prophecy.

The book is also undated, but it reflects its period almost as clearly as do the dated Books of Haggai and Zechariah. The conquest of Edom by the Nabateans, which took place during the Exile, is already past. {Malachi 1:2-5} The Jews are under a Persian viceroy. {Malachi 1:8} They are in touch with a heathen power, which does not tyrannize over them, for this book is the first to predict no judgment upon the heathen, and the first, moreover, to acknowledge that among the heathen the true God is worshipped "from the rising to the setting of the sun." The only judgment predicted is one upon the false and disobedient portion of Israel, whose arrogance and success have cast true Israelites into despair. All this reveals a time when the Jews were favorably treated by their Persian lords. The reign must be that of Artaxerxes Longhand, 464-424.

The Temple has been finished, {Malachi 1:10; Malachi 3:1; Malachi 1:10} and years enough have elapsed to disappoint those fervid hopes with which about 518 Zechariah expected its completion. The congregation has grown worldly and careless. In particular the priests are corrupt and partial in the administration of the Law. {Malachi 2:1-9} There have been many marriages with the heathen women of the land, {Malachi 2:10-16} and the laity have failed to pay the tithes and other dues to the Temple. {Malachi 3:7-12} These are the evils against which we find strenuous measures directed by Ezra, who returned from Babylon in 458, and by Nehemiah, who visited Jerusalem as its governor for the first time in 445 and for the second time in 433. Besides, "the religious spirit of the book is that of the prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah. A strong sense of the unique privileges of the children of Jacob, the objects of electing love, {Malachi 1:2} the children of the Divine Father, {Malachi 2:10} is combined with an equally strong assurance of Jehovah’s righteousness amidst the many miseries that pressed on the unhappy inhabitants of Judea . . . Obedience to the law is the sure path to blessedness." But the question still remains whether the Book of "Malachi" prepared for, assisted, or followed up the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah. An ancient tradition already alluded to assigned the authorship to Ezra himself.

Recent criticism has been divided among the years immediately before Ezra’s arrival in 458, those immediately before Nehemiah’s first visit in 445, those between his first government and his second, and those after Nehemiah’s disappearance from Jerusalem. But the years in which Nehemiah held office may be excluded, because the Jews are represented as bringing gifts to the governor, which Nehemiah tells us he did not allow to be brought to him. The whole question depends upon what Law was in practice in Israel when the book was written. In 445 Ezra and Nehemiah, by solemn covenant between the people and Jehovah, instituted the code which we now know as the Priestly Code of the Pentateuch. Before that year the ritual and social life of the Jews appear to have been directed by the Deuteronomic Code. Now the Book of "Malachi" enforces a practice with regard to the tithes, which agrees more closely with the Priestly Code than it does with Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy commands that every third year the whole tithe is to be given to the Levites and the poor who reside "within the gates" of the giver, and is there to be eaten by them. "Malachi" commands that the whole tithe be brought into the storehouse of the Temple for the Levites in service there; and so does the Priestly Code {Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 26:12; Malachi 3:8; Malachi 3:10 Numbers 28:21 ff.} On this ground many date the Book of "Malachi" after 445. But "Malachi’s" divergence from Deuteronomy on this point may be explained by the fact that in his time there were practically no Levites outside Jerusalem; and it is to be noticed that he joins the tithe with the terumah or heave-offering exactly as Deuteronomy does. On other points of the Law he agrees rather with Deuteronomy than with the Priestly Code. He follows Deuteronomy in calling the priests "sons of Levi," {Malachi 2:4-8 cf. Deuteronomy 33:8} while the Priestly Code limits the priesthood to the sons of Aaron. He seems to quote Deuteronomy when forbidding the oblation of blind, lame, and sick beasts; {Malachi 1:8; Deuteronomy 15:21} appears to differ from the Priestly Code which allows the sacrificial beast to be male or female, when he assumes that it is a male; {Malachi 1:14; Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 3:6} follows the expressions of Deuteronomy and not those of the Priestly Code in detailing the sins of the people (Malachi 3:5; Deuteronomy 5:11 ff., Deuteronomy 18:10; Deuteronomy 24:17 ff.; Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 19:33 f. Leviticus 20:6); and uses the Deuteronomic phrases "the Law of Moses," "My servant Moses," "statutes and judgments," and "Horeb" for the Mount of the Law. For the rest, he echoes or implies only Ezekiel and that part of the Priestly Code which is regarded as earlier than the rest, and probably from the first years of exile. Moreover he describes the Torah as not yet fully codified. {Malachi 2:6 ff.} The priests still deliver it in a way improbable after 445. The trouble of the heathen marriages with which he deals (if indeed the verses on this subject be authentic and not a later intrusion) was that which engaged Ezra’s attention on his arrival in 458, but Ezra found that it had already for some time been vexing the heads of the community. While, therefore, we are obliged to date the Book of "Malachi" before 445 B.C., it is uncertain whether it preceded or followed Ezra’s attempts at reform in 458. Most critics now think that it preceded them.

The Book of "Malachi" is an argument with the prophet’s contemporaries, not only with the wicked among them, who, in forgetfulness of what Jehovah is, corrupt the ritual, fail to give the Temple its dues, abuse justice, marry foreign wives, divorce their own, and commit various other sins; but also with the pious, who, equally forgetful of God’s character, are driven by the arrogance of the wicked to ask, whether He loves Israel, whether He is a God of justice, and to murmur that it is vain to serve Him. To these two classes of his contemporaries the prophet has the following answers. God does love Israel. He is worshipped everywhere among the heathen. He is the Father of all Israel. He will bless His people when they put away all abuses from their midst and pay their religious dues; and His Day of Judgment is coming, when the good shall be separated from the wicked. But before it come, Elijah the prophet will be sent to attempt the conversion of the wicked, or at least to call the nation to decide for Jehovah. This argument is pursued in seven or perhaps eight paragraphs, which do not show much consecutiveness, but are addressed, some to the wicked, and some to the despairing adherents of Jehovah.

1. Malachi 1:2-5 - To those who ask how God loves Israel, the proof of Jehovah’s election of Israel is shown in the fall of the Edomites.

2. Malachi 1:6-14 -Charge against the people of dishonoring their God, whom even the heathen reverence.

3. Malachi 2:1-9 -Charge against the priests, who have broken the covenant God made of old with Levi, and debased their high office by not reverencing Jehovah, by misleading the people, and by perverting justice. A curse is therefore fallen on them-they are contemptible in the people’s eyes.

4. Malachi 2:10-16 -A charge against the people for their treachery to each other; instanced in the heathen marriages, if the two verses, Malachi 2:11-12, upon this be authentic, and in their divorce of their wives.

5. Malachi 2:17 - Malachi 3:5 or Malachi 3:6 -Against those who in the midst of such evils grow skeptical about Jehovah. His Angel, or Himself, will come first to purge the priesthood and ritual that there may be pure sacrifices, and second to rid the land of its criminals and sinners.

6. Malachi 3:6 or Malachi 3:7-12 -A charge against the people of neglecting tithes. Let these be paid, disasters shall cease and the land be blessed.

7. Malachi 3:13-18 -Another charge against the pious for saying it is vain to serve God. God will rise to action and separate between the good and bad in the terrible Day of His coming.

8. To this, Malachi 4:3-5 adds a call to keep the Law, and a promise that Elijah will be sent to see whether he may not convert the people before the Day of the Lord comes upon them with its curse.

The authenticity of no part of the book has been till now in serious question. Bohme, indeed, took the last three verses for a later addition, on account of their Deuteronomic character, but, as Kuenen points out, this is in agreement with other parts of the book. Sufficient attention has not yet been paid to the question of the integrity of the text. The Septuagint offers a few emendations. There are other passages obviously or probably corrupt. The text of the title, as we have seen, is uncertain, and probably a later addition. Professor Robertson Smith has called attention to Malachi 2:16, where the Massoretic punctuation seems to have been determined with the desire to support the rendering of the Targum "if thou hatest her put her away," and so pervert into a permission to divorce a passage which forbids divorce almost as clearly as Christ Himself did. But in truth the whole of this passage, Malachi 2:10-16, is in such a curious state that we can hardly believe in its integrity. It opens with the statement that God is the Father of all us Israelites, and with the challenge, why then are we faithless to each other?- Malachi 2:10. But Malachi 2:11-12 do not give an instance of this: they describe the marriages with the heathen women of the land, which is not a proof of faithlessness between Israelites. Such a proof is furnished only by Malachi 2:13-16, with their condemnation of those who divorce the wives of their youth. The verses, therefore, cannot lie in their proper order, and Malachi 2:13-16 ought to follow immediately upon Malachi 2:10. This raises the question of the authenticity of Malachi 2:11-12, against the heathen marriages. If they bear such plain marks of having been intruded into their position, we can understand the possibility of such an intrusion in subsequent days, when the question of the heathen marriages came to the front with Ezra and Nehemiah. Besides, Malachi 2:11-12 lack the characteristic mark of all the other oracles of the book: they do not state a general charge against the people, and then introduce the people’s question as to the particulars of the charge. On the whole, therefore, these verses are suspicious. If not a later intrusion, they are at least out of place where they now lie. The peculiar remark in Malachi 2:13, "and this secondly ye do," must have been added by the editor to whom we owe the present arrangement.


BETWEEN the completion of the Temple in 516 and the arrival of Ezra in 458, we have almost no record of the little colony round Mount Zion. The Jewish chronicles devote to the period but a few verses of unsupported tradition. {Ezra 4:6-23} After 517 we have nothing from Zechariah himself; and if any other prophet appeared during the next half-century, his words have not survived. We are left to infer what was the true condition of affairs, not less from this ominous silence than from the hints which are given to us in the writings of "Malachi," Ezra, and Nehemiah after the period was over. Beyond a partial attempt to rebuild the walls of the city in the reign of Artaxerxes I, there seems to have been nothing to record. It was a period of disillusion, disheartening, and decay. The completion of the Temple did not bring in the Messianic era. Zerubbabel, whom Haggai and Zechariah had crowned as the promised King of Israel, died without reaching higher rank than a minor satrapy in the Persian Empire, and even in that he appears to have been succeeded by a Persian official. The remigrations from Babylon and elsewhere, which Zechariah predicted, did not take place. The small population of Jerusalem were still harassed by the hostility, and their morale sapped by the insidiousness, of their Samaritan neighbors: they were denied the stimulus, the purgation, the glory of a great persecution. Their Persian tyrants for the most part left them alone. The world left them alone. Nothing stirred in Palestine except the Samaritan intrigues. History rolled away westward, and destiny seemed to be settling on the Greeks. In 490 Miltiades defeated the Persians at Marathon. In 480 Thermopylae was fought and the Persian fleet broken at Salamis. In 479 a Persian army was destroyed at Plataea, and Xerxes lost Europe and most of the Ionian coast. In 460 Athens sent an expedition to Egypt to assist the Egyptian revolt against Persia, and in 457 "her slain fell in Cyprus, in Egypt, in Phoenicia, at Haliae, in Aegina, and in Megara in the same year."

Thus severely left to themselves and to the petty hostilities of their neighbors, the Jews appear to have sunk into a careless and sordid manner of life. They entered the period, it is true, with some sense of their distinction. In exile they had suffered God’s anger, and had been purged by it. But out of discipline often springs pride, and there is no subtler temptation of the human heart. The returned Israel felt this to the quick, and it sorely unfitted them for encountering the disappointment and hardship which followed upon the completion of the Temple. The tide of hope, which rose to flood with that consummation, ebbed rapidly away, and left God’s people struggling, like any ordinary tribe of peasants, with bad seasons and the cruelty of their envious neighbors. Their pride was set on edge, and they fell, not as at other periods of disappointment into despair, but into a bitter carelessness and a contempt of their duty to God. This was a curious temper, and, so far as we know, new in Israel. It led them to despise both His love and His holiness. They neglected their Temple dues, and impudently presented to their God polluted bread and blemished beasts which they would not have dared to offer to their Persian governor. Like people like priest: the priesthood lost not reverence only, but decency and all conscience of their office. They "despised the Table of the Lord," ceased to instruct the people, and grew partial in judgment. As a consequence they became contemptible in the eyes of the community. Immorality prevailed among all classes: "every man dealt treacherously with his brother." Adultery, perjury, fraud, and the oppression of the poor were very rife.

One particular fashion, in which the people’s wounded pride spited itself, was the custom of marriage which even the best families contracted with the half-heathen "people of the land." Across Judah there were scattered the descendants of those Jews whom Nebuchadrezzar had not deemed worth removing to Babylon. Whether regarded from a social or a religious point of view, their fathers had been the dregs of the old community. Their own religion, cut off as they were from the main body of Israel and scattered among the old heathen shrines of the land, must have deteriorated still further; but in all probability they had secured for themselves the best portions of the vacant soil, and now enjoyed a comfort and a stability of welfare far beyond that which was yet attainable by the majority of the returned exiles. More numerous than these dregs of ancient Jewry were the very mixed race of the Samaritans. They possessed a rich land, which they had cultivated long enough for many of their families to be settled in comparative wealth. With all these half-pagan Jews and Samaritans, the families of the true Israel, as they regarded themselves, did not hesitate to form alliances, for in the precarious position of the colony, such alliances were the surest way both to wealth and to political influence. How much the Jews were mastered by their desire for them is seen from the fact that, when the relatives of their half-heathen brides made it a condition of the marriages that they should first put away their old wives, they readily did so. Divorce became very frequent, and great suffering was inflicted on the native Jewish women.

So the religious condition of Israel declined for nearly two generations, and then about 460 the Word of God, after long silence, broke once more through a prophet’s lips.

We call this prophet "Malachi," following the error of an editor of his book, who, finding it nameless, inferred or invented that name from its description of the priest as the "Male’ach," or "messenger, of the Lord of Hosts." But the prophet gave himself no name. Writing from the midst of a poor and persecuted group of the people, and attacking the authorities both of church and state, he preferred to publish his charge anonymously. His name was in "the Lord’s own book of remembrance."

The unknown prophet addressed himself both to the sinners of his people and to those querulous adherents of Jehovah whom the success of the sinners had tempted to despair in their service of God. His style shares the practical directness of his predecessors among the returned exiles. He takes up one point after another, and drives them home in a series of strong, plain paragraphs of prose. But it is sixty years since Haggai and Zechariah, and in the circumstances we have described, a prophet could no longer come forward as a public inspirer of his nation. Prophecy seems to have been driven from public life, from the sudden enforcement of truth in the face of the people to the more deliberate and ordered argument which marks the teacher who works in private. In the Book of "Malachi" ‘there are many of the principles and much of the enthusiasm of the ancient Hebrew seer. But the discourse is broken up into formal paragraphs, each upon the same academic model. First a truth is pronounced, or a charge made against the people; then with the words "but ye will say" the prophet states some possible objection of his hearers, proceeds to answer it by detailed evidence, and only then drives home his truth, or his charge, in genuine prophetic fashion. To the student of prophecy this peculiarity of the book is of the greatest interest, for it is no merely personal idiosyncrasy. We rather feel that prophecy is now assuming the temper of the teacher. The method is the commencement of that which later on becomes the prevailing habit in Jewish literature. Just as with Zephaniah we saw prophecy passing into Apocalypse, and with Habakkuk into the speculation of the schools of Wisdom, so now in "Malachi" we perceive its transformation into the scholasticism of the Rabbis.

But the interest of this change of style must not prevent us from appreciating the genuine prophetic spirit of our book. Far more fully than, for instance, that of Haggai, to the style of which its practical sympathy is so akin, it enumerates the prophetic principles: the everlasting Love of Jehovah for Israel, the Fatherhood of Jehovah and His Holiness, His ancient ideals for Priesthood and People, the need of a repentance proved by deeds, the consequent promise of prosperity, the Day of the Lord, and Judgment between the evil the and righteous.

Upon the last of these the book affords a striking proof of the delinquency of the people during the last half-century, and in connection with it the prophet introduces certain novel features. To Haggai and Zechariah the great Tribulation had closed with the Exile and the rebuilding of the Temple: Israel stood on the margin of the Messianic age. But the Book of "Malachi" proclaims the need of another judgment as emphatically as the older prophets had predicted the Babylonian doom. "Malachi" repeats their name for it, "the great and terrible Day of Jehovah." But he does not foresee it, as they did, in the shape of a historical process. His description of it is pure Apocalypse-"the fire of the smelter and the fuller’s acid: the day that burns like a furnace," when all wickedness is as stubble, and all evil men are devoured, but to the righteous "the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings," and they shall tread the wicked under foot. To this the prophet adds a novel promise. God is so much the God of Love, {Malachi 3:6} that before the Day comes He will give His people an opportunity of conversion. He will send them Elijah the prophet to change their hearts, that He may be prevented from striking the land with His Ban.

In one other point the book is original, and that is in its attitude towards the heathen. Among the heathen, it boldly says, Jehovah is held in higher reverence than among His own people. {Malachi 1:11} In such a statement we can hardly fail to feel the influence upon Israel of their contact, often close and personal, with their wise and mild tyrants the Persians. We may emphasize the verse as the first note of that recognition of the real religiousness of the heathen, which we shall find swelling to such fullness and tenderness in the Book of Jonah.

Such are in brief the style and the principles of the Book of "Malachi," whose separate prophecies we may now proceed to take up in detail.

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