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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Malaki', מִלְאָכַי , nmessenger; Sept. in the title Μαλαχαίς, but in ch. 1, it renders ἄγγελος αὐτοῦ , Vulg. Malachias), the last of the minor prophets, and the latest writer in the canon of the O.T. (comp. Malachi 4:4-6). What is known of him is so intimately connected with his prophecies that it will be most convenient to consider the whole subject together. In doing so we will, at the same time, treat any doubtful questions involved. I. Personal Account. — The name Malachi is rendered by some my angel, but it is usually regarded as contracted from Malachijah, "messenger of Jehovah," like Abi (2 Kings 18:2) from Abijah (2 Chronicles 29:1). The traditionists regard the name as having been given to the prophet on account of the beauty of his person and his unblemished life. The name means an angel, angels being, in fact, the messengers of God; and, as the prophets are often styled angels or messengers of Jehovah, it is supposed by some that "Malachi" is merely a general title descriptive of this character, and not a proper name. So Hengstenberg, Christol. 3:372 sq.
Of his personal history nothing is known (see Dr. Davidson in Horne's Introd. new ed. 2:894 sq.). A tradition preserved in Pseudo-Epiphanius (De Vitis Proph.) relates that Malachi was of the tribe of Zebulun, and born after the captivity at Sopha (Σοφᾶ,? Saphir) in the territory of that tribe. According to the same apocryphal story he died young, and was buried with his fathers in his own country. Jerome, in the preface to his Commentary on Malachi, mentions a belief which was current among the Jews, that Malachi was identical with Ezra the priest, because the circumstances recorded in the narrative of the latter are also mentioned by the prophet. The Targum of Jonathan ben-Uzziel, on the words "by the hand of Malachi" (Malachi 1:1), gives the gloss "whose name is called Ezra the scribe." With equal probability Malachi has been identified with Mordecai, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel. The Sept., as above noted renders "by Malachi" (Malachi 1:1), "by the hand of his angel;" and this translation appears to have given rise to the idea that Malachi, as well as Haggai and John the Baptist, was an angel in human shape (comp. Malachi 3:1; 2 Esdras 1:40; Jerome, Comm. in Mag. 1:13). Cyril alludes to this belief only to express his disapprobation, and characterizes those who hold it as romancers (ο ‰ μάτην ἐῤῥαψῳδήκασιν, κ . τ . λ .). The current opinion of the Jews is that of the Talmud, in which this question is mooted, and which decides, it seems to us rightly, that this prophet is not the same with Mordecai, or Ezra, or Zerubbabel, or Nehemiah, whose claims had all been advocated by different parties, but a distinct person named Malachi (Bab. Megillah, 15:1). Another Hebrew tradition associates Malachi with Haggai and Zechariah as the companions of Daniel when he saw the vision recorded in Daniel 10:7 (Smith's Select Discourses, p. 214; A.D. 1660), and as among the first members of the Great Synagogue, which consisted of 120 elders (Isidore, De Vita et Morte Sanct. ch. li). For a notice of prophecy of the succession of the Roman pontiffs attributed to him, see the Studien u. Kritiken, 1857, p. 555 sq.). (See MALACHY, ST).
II. Date of his Prophecies. — Although there has been a faint disposition to regard Zechariah as the last of the prophets (Lactant. De Velra Sapent. 4:5), the received opinion decides for Malachi. Accordingly Aben-Ezra calls him "‘ the end of the prophets;" Kimchi, "the last of them;" and not seldom he is distinguished by the rabbins as "the seal of the prophets." Cyril makes him contemporary with Haggai and Zechariah, or a little later. Syncellus (p. 240 B) places these three prophets under Joshua the son of Josedec. That Malachi was contemporary with Nehemiah is rendered probable by a comparison of Malachi 2:8 with Nehemiah 13:15; Nehemiah 2:10-16 with Nehemiah 13:23, etc.; and Malachi 3:7-12 with Nehemiah 13:10, etc. That he prophesied after the times of Haggai and Zechariah is inferred from his omitting to mention the restoration of the Temple, and from no allusion being made to him by Ezra. The captivity was already a thing of the long past, and is not referred to. The existence of the Temple-service is presupposed in 1:10; 3:1, 10. The Jewish nation had still a political chief (Malachi 1:8), distinguished by the same title as that borne by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:26), to which Gesenius assigns a Persian origin. Hence Vitringa concludes that Malachi delivered his prophecies after the second return of Nehemiah from Persia (Nehemiah 13:6), and subsequently to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes Longimanus (B.C. cir. 420), which is the date adopted by Kennicott and Hales, and approved by Davidson (Introd. p. 985). The date B.C. 410 cannot be far from correct.
It may be mentioned that in the Seder Olam Rabba (p. 55, ed. Meyer) the date of Malachi's prophecy is assigned, with that of Haggai and Zechariah, to the second year of Darius; and his death in the Seder Olam Zuta (p. 105) is placed, with that of the same two prophets, in the fifty-second year of the Medes and Persians. The principal reasons adduced by Vitringa, and which appear conclusively to fix the time of Malachi's prophecy as contemporary with Nehemiah, are the following: The offenses denounced by Malachi as prevailing among the people, and especially the corruption of the priests by marrying foreign wives, correspond with the actual abuses with which Nehemiah had to contend in his efforts to bring about a reformation (comp. Malachi 2:8 with Nehemiah 13:29). The alliance of the high-priest's family with Tobiah the Ammonite (Nehemiah 13:4; Nehemiah 13:28) and Sanballat the Horonite had introduced neglect of the customary Temple-service, and the offerings and tithes due to the Levites and priests, in consequence of which the Temple was forsaken (Nehemiah 13:4-13) and the Sabbath openly profaned (Nehemiah 13:15-21). The short interval of Nehemiah's absence from Jerusalem had been sufficient for the growth of these corruptions, and on his return he found it necessary to put them down with a strong hand, and to do over again the work that Ezra had done a few years before. From the striking parallelism between the state of things indicated in Malachi's prophecies and that actually existing on Nehemiah's return from the court of Artaxerxes, it is on all accounts highly probable that the efforts of the secular governor were on this occasion seconded by the preaching of "Jehovah's messenger," and that Malachi occupied the same position with regard to the reformation under Nehemiah as Isaiah held in the time of Hezekiah, and Jeremiah in that of Josiah. The last chapter of canonical Jewish history is the key to the last chapter of its prophecy. See Noel Alexander, De Malachia Propheta, in his Hist. Eccles. 3:642 sq.; Vitringa, idem, in his Observationes Sociae, vol. 2; Hebenstreit, Disp. in Malachi (Lips. 1731 sq.).
III. Contents of the Book. — The prophecies of Malachi are comprised in four chapters in our version, as in the Sept., Vulgate, and Peshito-Syriac. In the Hebrew the 3d and 4th form but one chapter. The whole prophecy naturally divides itself into three sections, in the first of which Jehovah is represented as the loving father and ruler of his people (Malachi 1:2 to Malachi 2:9); in the second, as the supreme God and father of all (Malachi 2:10-16); and in the third, as their righteous and final judge (Malachi 2:17 - end). These may be again subdivided into smaller sections, each of which follows a certain order: first, a short sentence; then the skeptical questions which might be raised by the people; and, finally, their full and triumphant refutation. The formal and almost scholastic manner of the prophecy seemed to Ewald to indicate that it was rather delivered in writing than spoken publicly. But though this may be true of the prophecy in its present shape, which probably presents the substance of oral discourses, there is no reason for supposing that it was not also pronounced orally in public, like the warnings and denunciations of the older prophets, however it may differ from them in vigor of conception and high poetic diction.
1. The first section of the prophet's message consists of two parts; the first (Malachi 1:1-8) addressed to the people generally, in which Jehovah, by his messenger, asserts his love for them, and proves it, in answer to their reply, ‘"Wherein hast thou loved us?" by referring to the punishment of Edom as an example. The second part (Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:9) is addressed especially to the priests, who had despised the name of Jehovah, and had been the chief movers of the defection from his worship and covenant. They are rebuked for the worthlessness of their sacrifices and offerings, and their profanation of the Temple thereby (Malachi 1:7-14). The denunciation of their offense is followed by the threat of punishment for future neglect (Malachi 2:1-3), and the character of the true priest is drawn as the companion picture to their own (Malachi 2:5-9).
2. In the second section (Malachi 2:10-16) the prophet reproves the people for their intermarriages with the idolatrous heathen, and the divorces by which they separated themselves from their legitimate wives, who wept at the altar of Jehovah, in violation of the great law of marriage which God the father of all, established at the beginning.
3. The judgment, which the people lightly regard, is announced with all solemnity, ushered in by the advent of the Messiah. The Lord, preceded by his messenger shall come to his Temple suddenly, to purify the land from its iniquity, and to execute swift judgment upon those who violate their duty to God and their neighbor. The first part (Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 3:5) of the section terminates with the threatened punishment; in the second (Malachi 3:6-12) the faithfulness of God to his promises is vindicated, and the people are exhorted to repentance, with its attendant blessings; in the third (Malachi 3:13 to Malachi 4:6) they are reproved for their want of confidence in God, and for confusing good and evil. The final severance between the righteous and the wicked is then set forth, and the great day of judgment is depicted, to be announced by the coming of Elijah, or John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ (Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:10-13).
IV. Style. — The diction of Malachi offers few, if any, distinguishing characteristics. His language is suitable to the manner of his prophecy. Smooth and easy to a remarkable degree, it is the style of the reasoner rather than of the poet. The rhythm and imagery of his writings are substantially those of the old prophets, but they possess no remarkable vigor or beauty. We miss the fiery prophetic eloquence of Isaiah, and have in its stead the calm and almost artificial discourse of the practiced orator, carefully modeled upon those of the ancient prophets. His phraseology is accounted for by his living during that decline of Hebrew poetry which we trace more or less in all the sacred writings posterior to the captivity. In general the language is concise, clear, and polished, and the manner of introducing a new line of argument or a new range of thought is most striking. Here the peculiarity is to be noticed, that there is no longer the ancient dramatic manner displayed, but a kind of dialogue has taken its place, which is carried on between God and the people or the priests, whose half-mocking questions are enlarged upon and finally answered with scorn by the mouth of the messenger. He seems fully aware of being the last of the sacred bards (Malachi 3:1), and the epoch of transition from the glowing energetic fullness of the inspired seer, who speaks to the people as the highest power suddenly and forcibly moves him, to the carefully studied and methodically constructed written discourse, becomes strangely apparent in him. We find both the ancient prophetic improvised original exhortation, with its repetitions and apparent incongruities, and the artificially composed address, with its borrowed ideas well arranged and its euphonious words well selected. This circumstance has probably also given rise to the notion that we have only in his book a summary of his orations: a work containing, as it were, the substance only of his addresses, written out by himself from his recollections an opinion which we do not share. Of peculiarities of phraseology we may notice the occurrence of passages like ונשא אתכם אליו (Malachi 2:3), כסה חמס עלאּלבושו (Malachi 2:16), etc.
V. Canonicity and Integrity. — The claim of the book of Malachi to its place in the canon of the Old Testament has never been disputed, and its authority is established by the references to it in the New Testament (Matthew 11:10; Matthew 17:12; Mark 1:2; Mark 9:11-12; Luke 1:17; Romans 9:13). Philo, Josephus, Melito, Jerome, and other ancient authorities, mention it, and quote from it as in accordance with our present copies. Nor is there anything, either in its language or the circumstances of its time, the manners and customs touched upon, or its topographical and geographical allusions, that could give rise to the slightest critical suspicion.
Its text is one of the purest and best preserved, and no glosses to it are to be found in the Codd., such as had to be added to correct the corruptions of other books. The differences in the various ancient versions arise only from the differences of the vowels assumed or found by the translators in their copies. The few variants which occur in the different texts are so unimportant that they do not call for any detailed remark.
VI. Commentaries. — Special exegetical helps on the whole book are as follows, a few of the most important of which we designate by an asterisk prefixed: Ephraem Syrus, Explanation (in Syriac, in his Opp. v. 312); Rupertus Tuitiensis, In Malachi (in his Opp. 1:520); D. Kimchi and S. Jarchi's commentaries, tr. into Latin by De Muis (Paris, 1618, 4to); Aben- Ezra's and other Jewish commentaries, tr. into Latin by Hebenstreet (Lips. 1746, 4to); D. Kimchi's and Aben-Ezra's commentaries, in Latin by Bohle (Rost. 1637, 4to); Kimchi's alone, by Carpzov (Lips. 1679, 8vo), by Miinster (Basil. 1530, 8vo); Aben-Ezra's alone, by Mitnster (ib. 1530, 8vo), by Borgwall (Upsal. 1707, 8vo); Abrabanel's, by Meyer (Hammon. 1685, 4to); Luther, Commentarius (in Opp., Wittenb. edit., 4:520; in German, by Agricola, 1555); Melancthon, Explicationes (Vitemb. 1553; also in Opp. 2:541); Draconis, Explanaciones (Lips. 1564, folio); Chytreus, Explicatio (Rost. 1568, 8vo; also in Opp. 2:455); Moller, Expositio (Vitemb. 1569, 8vo); Brocardus, interpretatio [including Cant., Hag., and Zech.] (L. B. 1580, 8vo); Gryneus, Hlypomnnemata (Genesis 1582, 8vo; Basil. 1583, 1612, 4to); Polanus, Analysis (Basil- 1597, 1606, 8vo); Baldwin, Commentarius [includ. Hag. and Zech.] (Vitemb. 1610, 8vo); De Quiros, Commentarii [includ. Nah.] (Hispal. 1622; Lugd. 1623, fol.); Tarnow, Commentarius (iost. 1624, 4to); Stock and Torshell, Commentary (Lond. 1641,fol.); Acosta, Commentarius [including Ruth, etc.] (Lugd. 1641,fol.); Sclater, Commentary (Lon.don, 1650, 4to); Ursinus, Commentarius (Francof. 1652, 8vo); Martinus, Observationes (Gronimg. 1647,4to; 1658, 8vo); Varenius, Trifolium [including Hag. and Zech.] (Rost. 1662, 4to); Pocock, Commentary (Oxf. 1677, fol.; also in Works, 119); Van Til, Commentarius (L.B. 1701, 4to); Kippen, Observationes (Gryph. 1708, 4to); Wessel. Enucleatio (Lub. 1729, 4to); *Venema, Commentsarius (Leon. 1759, 4to); Fischer, Prolusio (Lips. 1759, etc.); Bahrat, Commnentatrius (Lips. 1768, 8vo); *Faber, Comment(atio (Onold. 1779, 4to); Rosenmü ller, Scholia (Lips. 1828. 8vo); *Reinke, Commentar (Giessen, 1856, 8vo); *Moore, Com, mentary [including Hag. and Zech.] (N. Y. 1856, 8vo); Kohler, Er'kl run'g (Erlang. 1865, 8vo). (See PROPHETS, MINOR).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Malachi'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/malachi.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.