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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

- Malachi

by Dr. Robert Utley



A. It is named after the prophet.

B. His name means “My messenger” (BDB 521 #1).

1. It could be a title, “my messenger,” cf. Malachi 3:1.

2. It could mean “My angel” (BDB 521 #2).

3. It could be a proper name (BDB 522).


A. This book is part of the “latter prophets” (cf. Ecclesiasticus 49:10).

B. It is part of “the Twelve,” a grouping of minor prophets (Baba Bathra 14b)

1. Like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, they fit on one scroll.

2. Represent the twelve tribes or the symbolic number of organization.

3. Reflect traditional view of the books chronology.

C. The order of “the Twelve” or Minor Prophets has been linked by many scholars to a chronological sequence. Malachi is obviously the last minor prophet.


A. It uses diatribe to communicate truth. This is a question-and-answer format. A truth was presented and then a supposed objector asked a question or made a comment to which the speaker responded.

B. Malachi has been called “the Hebrew Socrates.”

C. Both Paul and James used this same method (i.e., diatribe) to present truth.

D. This genre structure can be seen in, “But you say. . .,” Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:6, Malachi 1:7(twice), 12, 13; 2:14, 17 (twice); Malachi 3:7, Malachi 3:8, Malachi 3:13, Malachi 3:14.

E. It is not Hebrew poetry, but similar. The NIV Study Bible calls it “lofty prose,” p. 1424.


A. The Hebrew term “malachi” used in Malachi 1:1 means “angel” or “messenger” (BDB 521).

1. Most take it as a proper name (BDB 522).

2. The LXX takes it as a title (cf. Malachi 3:1).

3. Origen thought it referred to an angel.

B. The Talmud (Mecillah 15a) said Mordecai wrote the book.

C. The Aramaic Targum of Jonathan said that it was a title for Ezra. This interpretation was followed by Jerome, Rashi and Calvin.

D. In Antiquities of the Jews 11:4-5 Josephus mentions all the post-exilic persons by name except Malachi.

E. His name does not appear in conjunction with any NT quotes from this book.

F. II Esdras lists the post-exilic prophets as Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

G. Since no other prophetic book is anonymous, Malachi must have been a proper name. Remember, authorship does not affect inspiration.


A. There is great similarity between the historical setting of the post-exilic books of Nehemiah and Malachi:

1. tension over tithing, Malachi 3:8; Nehemiah 10:32-39

2. oppression of the poor, Malachi 3:5; Nehemiah 5:1-5

3. inter-religious marriages, Malachi 2:10, Malachi 2:11; Nehemiah 13:1-3, Nehemiah 13:23-24 (Ezra 9:1-2)

B. The best guess for a date is between 450-430 B.C., after Nehemiah's return to the court of Artaxerxes I, Nehemiah 13:6.


A. The Israelites were told to respect them as relatives

1. Numbers 20:14

2. Deuteronomy 2:4-6

B. The Israelites had many confrontations with them

1. Numbers 20:14-21

Malachi 2:0. Judges 11:16ff

3. 1 Samuel 14:47-48

C. Prophecies against Edom

1. Numbers 24:18

Malachi 2:0. Isaiah 34:5ff; Isaiah 63:1ff

Malachi 3:0. Jeremiah 49:7ff

4. Lamentations 4:21-22

5. Ezekiel 26:12ff; Ezekiel 35:13ff; Ezekiel 36:2-6

6. Amos 1:11-12


A. The outline of Malachi follows his six disputations or diatribes. Malachi spoke for God, the people responded, and Malachi spoke for God again.

B. Basic Outline

1. God's love for the returning Jews, Malachi 1:2-5

2. God's condemnation of the priests, Malachi 1:6-9

3. God's condemnation of divorce and mixed-religious marriage, Malachi 2:10-16

4. God's condemnation of their bad attitude (Where is the God of justice?), Malachi 2:17-6

5. God's condemnation of their support of the Temple, Malachi 3:7-12

6. God's condemnation of their bad attitude (It is vain to serve God!), Malachi 3:13-3

7. A final admonition and promise, Malachi 4:4-6


A. Malachi documents the sins of apathy and disillusionment of the returning Jews.

B. This book has several universal statements. God will use Israel to reach the world, Malachi 1:5, Malachi 1:11, Malachi 1:14; Malachi 3:12.

C. God's people are impugning His character

Malachi 1:0. Malachi 2:17 - God does not act in justice.

Malachi 2:0. Malachi 3:6 - God's unchanging character is the only reason Israel still exists.

Malachi 3:0. Malachi 3:14 - It is vain to serve God.

D. This book has a Messianic hope, Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5.


I. The Covenant God (reveals Himself by names and acts)

A. Terms for God

1. YHWH (YHWH Sabbaoth = LORD of Hosts, Malachi 1:8, Malachi 1:10, Malachi 1:11, Malachi 1:14, etc.) Malachi 1:1, Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:7, Malachi 1:12, Malachi 1:13, Malachi 1:14, etc.

a. Special covenant name for God (cf. Exodus 3:14), from the Hebrew “to be”

b. The rabbis say it speaks of God's covenant mercy and loyalty

c. Parallel to “God of Heaven” in Ezra-Nehemiah. YHWH Sabbaoth is used 24 times in this brief book. This title is used often in Zechariah and Haggai.

2. Father, Malachi 1:6 (twice)

a. Analogy applied to God, Malachi 1:6; Malachi 2:10; Malachi 3:17

b. God's major way of communicating His love towards man in the use of intimate family terms.

3. Adonai (Lord), Malachi 1:6 (twice)

a. Term originally meant “master,” “owner,” “husband,” or “Lord”

b. Significant use in Malachi 3:1 where it is parallel to “messenger of the covenant”

4. King, Malachi 1:14 - This concept goes back to 1 Sam. YHWH had always been Israel's true king

5. El, Malachi 1:9; Malachi 2:10, Malachi 2:11, and Elohim, Malachi 2:16, Malachi 2:17; Malachi 3:8, Malachi 3:14, Malachi 3:15, Malachi 3:18

a. This is the plural form of the general name for God in the ancient near east. “El” equals “Mighty One.”

b. The rabbis say it speaks of God as Creator, Ruler and Judge.

6. “LORD of Hosts,” Malachi 1:4, Malachi 1:8, Malachi 1:8, Malachi 1:9, Malachi 1:10, Malachi 1:11, Malachi 1:13, Malachi 1:14, etc. This is the characteristic title for God in the post-exilic books. It means the commander of the army of heaven. It is used twenty-four times in only fifty-five verses.

B. His name reflects God's character and purpose

1. (Priests) who despise My name, Malachi 1:6 (twice)

2. My name will be great among the nations, Malachi 1:11 (twice)

a. Future Gentiles, Acts 10:35; Romans 2:14-15

b. Scattered Jews - Diaspora

c. Eschatological

3. You (Priests) are profaning it, Malachi 1:12

4. My name is feared among the nations, Malachi 1:14

5. To give honor to My name, Malachi 2:2 (Malachi 1:6)

a. Notice this refers to the religious leaders

b. Attitude is crucial

6. Stood in awe of My name, Malachi 2:5

a. God's acts of life and peace demanded appropriate response

b. Particularly from the sons of Levi

7. Those who esteem His name, Malachi 3:16

a. Spoke of God to each other

b. Written in Book of Life

8. You who fear My name, Malachi 4:2, Malachi 4:5

II. Covenant Apathy

A. Diatribe Structure, Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:6, Malachi 1:7 (twice), 12, 13; 2:14, 17 (twice) Malachi 3:7, Malachi 3:8, Malachi 3:13, Malachi 3:14:

1. later rabbinical teaching form

2. Malachi is often called “Hebrew Socrates”

3. Paul uses this method in Romans

4. James uses this method in James

B. Apathy seen in neglect and abuses

1. blemished sacrifices, Malachi 1:7, Malachi 1:8

a. blind, Malachi 1:8

b. lame, Malachi 1:0;8, 13

c. sick, Malachi 1:8, Malachi 1:13

d. stolen, Malachi 1:13

e. blemished, Malachi 1:14

2. foreign marriages and domestic divorces, Malachi 2:11-16

3. priestly activities

a. sacrificial irregularities, Malachi 1:6-14

b. teaching and judging irregularities, Malachi 2:1-9

c. purification of the sons of Levi, Malachi 3:3

d. godly activities, Malachi 2:6-8

(1) revere and honor God, Malachi 2:5

(2) true teaching, Malachi 2:6, Malachi 2:7

(3) walk with God in peace and justice, Malachi 2:6

(4) spokesman for God, Malachi 2:7

4. tithing of people, Malachi 3:8-10

a. tithes

b. contributions

c. connected promise of Deut., blessings (Deut. 27-28), Malachi 3:10-11

5. God's justice and character impugned, Malachi 2:17; Malachi 3:13-18

a. everyone who does evil is called good, Malachi 2:17

b. it is vain to serve God, Malachi 3:14

c. it will be set right, Malachi 4:3

III. Covenant Renewal

A. Judgment on Improper Response

1. judgment on unbelieving Edom, Malachi 1:2-4

2. curse on covenant cheating, Malachi 1:9; Malachi 1:14; Malachi 2:2 (twice)

3. judgment theme connected with coming Messenger, who is Judge, Malachi 3:2, Malachi 3:5

a. refiner's fire

b. fuller's soap

c. King James has “Sun” in Malachi 4:2, but term is feminine

4. that day, Malachi 3:3

a. day of judgment, Malachi 3:18; Malachi 4:1, Malachi 4:5

b. day of salvation, Malachi 3:17

B. Special Messenger Coming

1. special preparer, Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5

a. comes before “messenger of covenant”

b. called Elijah

c. Jesus identifies this one as John the Baptist, Matthew 11:14; Matthew 11:14; Matthew 12:0; 9-13

d. John asserts that he is not literally Elijah, John 1:21

C. His Gracious Covenant Acts

1. special love and calling of Jacob, Malachi 1:2-5

2. their expectation of God's gracious response, Malachi 1:9

3. God's love for all men was to be clearly visible in Israel, Malachi 1:5, Malachi 1:11, Malachi 1:14, Malachi 1:3:12

4. special day for covenant people, Malachi 3:17

5. special day of freedom, Malachi 4:2

6. God will change hearts, Malachi 4:6

D. Themes of judgment and hope interspersed

1. judgment, Malachi 2:2-3, Malachi 2:5

2. hope, Malachi 3:1, Malachi 3:4, Malachi 3:6

3. judgment, Malachi 4:5, Malachi 4:6

4. hope, Malachi 4:6

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