Malachi is not a gentle touch. He might sound like a yeller when he quotes God.
“People, you bring me blind animals. That’s your sacrifice, your gift to me. Blind animals. And crippled critters. Diseased, as well….Try giving animals like that to your governor. Would he be happy with you? Would he say, ‘Thank you very much for all these sick animals, I gratefully accept them’” (1:8)?
Priests with bad attitudes toward God
“Priests…If you don’t start showing me respect and honoring my name when you use it….I’m going to punish you in a way that will affect you and future generations of your family. The shame you’ll have to live with will be like walking around with manure on your faces” (2:1-3).
Cheapskating around the tithe
“So, you think it’s okay to rob God? …You’re robbing me of tithes and offerings….Bring all the tithe to the Temple so we have food here at my house. Test me. Do it. Then watch what happens. I’ll open the windows of heaven and dump a barrel of blessing all over you” (3:8, 10).
Malachi, the last voice of a prophet in the Jewish Bible, sounds the alarm for the last day on earth. It’s the day the LORD comes to hold people accountable. Some scholars say when they read Malachi’s warning to the Jews to stop ignoring God and his laws, they see the end of humanity.
Others say they see Jesus as the LORD who came and made it clear what it means to live as a citizen of God’s kingdom, whether in heaven or on earth.
Others say they see layers of both: the birth and life of Jesus, followed someday by his return and Judgment Day.
For sinners, it’s cremation and The End of Days. For people devoted to God, it’s Happy Days and dancing.
“Look, judgment day is coming… And it’s going to light up like an oven fire. It’s going to burn away all the evil people like straw in a blaze…But there’s a better future for people who treat me with respect. The sun of goodness will rise on a brand new day, a day of healing. You’re going to dance like young calves turned out of their stalls” (4:1-2).
Malachi wrote this short prophecy or an anonymous writer did, and then described himself simply as God’s “messenger.” The name “Malachi” means “my messenger” in Hebrew, which is the original language of the Jewish Bible.
Best guess: Malachi lived in the 400s BC, about a century after Jews returned to their homeland, which Babylonian invaders had decimated in 586 BC. They erased Israel from the world map.
Babylonians had leveled Jerusalem and deported most of the survivors, banning them from returning home to rebuild their rebellious nation.
But Persians from what is now Iraq defeated Babylon and freed the political prisoners, including Jews. Many Jews returned home and rebuilt the Jerusalem Temple by 515 BC.
Some clues of the timeline:
- A governor ruled Israel (1:8). Persians allowed Jews to rebuild their nation, but only as the Persian Empire’s province of Palestine. Persian-appointed governors ruled from 536-332 BC.
- Jews sacrificed in the Temple again (1:7). There was no Temple for 70 years after 586 BC.
- Jews were possibly marrying non-Jews (footnote for 2:14). This was a problem Ezra viciously attacked in the mid-400s BC (Ezra 9—10; Nehmiah 13).
The scenes probably took place in the Persian province of Yehud, which is translated Judah or Judea. It was roughly a 40-mile-wide square plug of ground (60 km), in territory that became known as Palestine. The Jewish province included Jerusalem and beyond, into what are now central parts of Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories. Jerusalem is where Jews sacrificed animals to God. And this was a topic Malachi covered with emotion and blunt words.
Malachi warned Jewish priests to stop disrespecting God. And he told the Jewish people to straighten up, obey God’s laws, and stop sacrificing defective livestock. Otherwise, they’ll burn like straw on Judgment Day.
“Judgment day is coming. And it’s going to light up like an oven fire. It’s going to burn away all the evil people like straw in a blaze” (Malachi 4:1).
Some translate Malachi as saying Judgment Day is a “great and terrible day” (4:5). It’s a great day for God’s devoted people. But it’s the last day for a sinner.