Prophecy and the Prophets

By Barnard C. Taylor

Part II - A Story of the Individual Prophets

Chapter 16



Parallel reading: Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah.

1. Date and Occasion

While the time of this prophet is not given in the book, it is quite certain that he belonged to about the time of Nehemiah, probably after the reforms undertaken by Nehemiah. Malachi condemns the faults that Nehemiah sought to correct. As he is not mentioned in the book of Nehemiah, his work may have been undertaken a short time after Nehemiah. The Jews were taught by their captivity the evils of idolatry, and did not fall into that sin again after they returned from exile, but they did become indifferent to the commands of God that separated them from the other peoples. They were in danger of losing sight of the fact that they were a special people of God, holding a special relation to him, for a special purpose. They had intermarried with the heathen when Malachi was called to rebuke them for this sin.

The prophets before the exile had predicted, not only the punishment that would come upon the people by captivity, but also their restoration. They had described the glory that should belong to God’s people after they should be restored to their land. They had declared that Israel should not only be free from the power of other nations, but that they should rule over the heathen and be served by them. God’s people were to be prosperous, triumphant, glorified.

The Jews dwelling in Judea in the days of Malachi had not seen the fulfilment of these promises. They were a mere province of Persia, paying tribute to this heathen power. They were not even independent, far less predominant. They were despised and oppressed by their neighbors, and they were poor.

The greater part of the Jews thus lost faith in the promises of God, and reached the conclusion that there was no advantage in serving God. Those who did not serve him fared as well as those who did.

2. The Work of Malachi

This prophet had to rebuke the priests, the religious leaders of the people, who by their actions were bringing contempt upon all the religious services. They ignored the distinction betwen things holy and things unholy, and had become weary of the whole service of Jehovah.

Malachi also had to rebuke those who had divorced their Jewish wives in order to marry wives from the heathen nations. He had to rebuke the people for their sins against Jehovah, their oppression of the weak, their failure to support the temple service, and their ignoring the necessity of right living.

He assures the discouraged, the indifferent, and the sinful that the Messenger of the covenant shall come, but come for judgment, and the difference between the righteous and the wicked will then be acknowledged by those who had said there was no difference.

3. The Thought of the Chief Divisions of the Prophecy

Much of this prophecy is put in the form of a dialogue between the people and God. Charges are made against them, and they answer by asking for the evidence of the sin.

(1) The evidence of God’s love for his people, denied by the Jews, is given by the contrast between God’s dealings with Esau and Jacob, although they were brothers, and might be expected to be treated alike, ch. 1:1-5.

(2) God has not been honored as a father by his people; the priests have treated the altar with contempt, offering diseased animals, ver. 6-14.

(3) The priests are to be punished in order that God’s covenant with Levi might be confirmed. It was intended that the priests should teach the people the law, to keep them from sin. These priests had misled the people through their interpretation of the law, ch. 2:1-9.

(4) They were brothers, yet had acted treacherously by putting away their Jewish wives, and marrying heathen wives, ver. 10-16.

(5) They are saying God approves of evil, since he does not come to judge the wicked, ver. 17. But the prophet declares that God will come suddenly to judge, and the wicked shall be punished, ch. 2:1-6.

(6) It is only God’s covenant faithfulness that has saved Israel from destruction, for they have been sinning from the first, and now they are robbing God in withholding the support of his ministers, ver. 6-12.

(7) They say the wicked are blessed, and it does not pay to serve God. But in the coming “day of Jehovah,” when the wicked shall be punished and those who fear God be blessed, it will be seen that there is a difference between serving God and sinning against him, ch. 3:13 to 4:3.

(8) They are to remember the law given by Moses, and to look for the “day of Jehovah,” which shall be preceded by the coming of the prophet Elijah to turn the hearts of God’s people back to him.