("messenger of Jah"), or Jehovah; contracted for Malachijah, as Abi for Abijah (2 Kings 18:2; compare 2 Chronicles 29:1). The name is that of an office rather than of a person; it occurs in the sense "My (Jehovah's) messenger" (Malachi 3:1, compare Haggai 1:13). Malachi was Jehovah's last inspired messenger of Old Testament, announcing the advent of the great Messenger of New Testament; the transition link between the two dispensations, "the skirt and boundary of Christianity," to which is due his abrupt earnestness. Not identical with Ezra, as Chaldee paraphrase represents, for Malachi is never called a scribe, always a prophet, but Ezra always a scribe, never a prophet.
The analogy of the headings of the other prophets favors the view that Malachi is a proper name. He supported or followed up the governor Nehemiah in the restoration of the national polity civil and religious, as Haggai and Zechariah previously had supported Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the civil governor in building the temple, Malachi (Zechariah 1:10; Zechariah 3:1-10) presupposes the temple already built. Like Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:5; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Nehemiah 13:23-30) he censures the secular and mercenary spirit of the priests (Malachi 1:10; Malachi 2:14-16; Malachi 3:8-10); the people's marriages with foreigners; the non-payment of the tithes (Nehemiah states the cause, the high priest's alliance with Tobiah the Ammonite and Sanballat); and the rich men's want of sympathy toward the poor. Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:7) implies that "prophets" supported him, by his desire, in his reformation.
DATE. About 420 B.C. or later will be about the date, from the above facts. Thus kingly (Zerubbabel and Nehemiah), priestly (Joshua and Ezra), and prophetic men (Haggai and Zechariah and Malachi) headed God's people at the earlier and the later stage in the restoration of Jerusalem. The former period was that of building the temple, the later that of restoring the polity and rebuilding the city. The rebuilding of the temple was the theocratic people's first care; the political restoration was secondary. A small colony of 50,000 settled with Joshua and Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:64). These became intermingled with the pagan during the 60 years that elapsed before Ezra (Ezra 9:6-15; Nehemiah 1:3); "the remnant ... left in the province are in great affliction and reproach, the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and the gates burned with fire."
A second restoration was therefore needed, to mold the national life into Jewish form, by reestablishing the holy law and the city. This was the work of Ezra and Nehemiah with the aid of Malachi in about 50 years, ending with the death of Malachi and Nehemiah, at the close of the fifth century B.C. Hence, the "seven weeks" (49 or 50 years) stand by themselves at the beginning of the foretold "seventy weeks" (Daniel 9:25), to mark the fundamental difference between them, as the last period of Old Testament revelation, and the 62 weeks of years that follow without revelation, preceding the final week standing out by itself in unrivaled dignity as Messiah's week. The 70 weeks begin with Artaxerxes' seventh year, 457 B.C., when he allowed Ezra (Ezra 7:1; Ezra 7:6) to go to Jerusalem in accordance with the commandment which then went forth from God.
Ezra the priest purified the nation from within of pagan elements and restored the law; Nehemiah did the outer work of rebuilding the city and restoring the national polity (Auberlen). The time following Nehemiah's second return to Jerusalem from Persia (subsequently to the 32nd year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, Nehemiah 13:6) is the probable date of Malachi's prophecies, about 420 B.C. Socrates at Athens was at about the same time awakening that corrupt city to self examination. The Jews were now in Jerusalem (Malachi 2:11); the Persian "governor" (pechah, pasha'; Malachi 1:8) was there, the altar (Malachi 1:7) and temple rebuilt (Malachi 2:13; Malachi 3:1), the sacrifices and feasts celebrated (Malachi 1:13-14; Malachi 2:3).
Nehemiah bore this very title (pechah, Nehemiah 5:14; Nehemiah 12:26), and its equivalent "tirshatha" (Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 10:1; Nehemiah 7:65; Ezra 2:63), the prefect of a province less extensive than a satrapy. It is curious that Malachi is not mentioned in Nehemiah nor Nehemiah in Malachi. But the same evils are sought to be remedied by both: see above; also compare Malachi 2:8, "ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts," with Nehemiah 13:29, "they have defiled the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites." Thus the closing chapter of Old Testament history is the key of the last of Old Testament prophecy.
I. The first two chapters are mainly expostulation;
II. the last two mainly prediction.
(1) Charge against Israel for insensibility to God's love, which so distinguished Israel above Edom (Malachi 1:1-5).
(2) Against the priests for contemptible offerings, profaning instead of honoring their Master and their Father, unlike Levi of old, who walked with God in a covenant of life and peace, turning many from iniquity, whereas they departed out of the way and caused others to stumble; therefore God will send a curse upon them, making them contemptible, even as they contemned and failed to give glory to His name (Malachi 1:6-2:9).
(3) Reproof of the wrong done to Jewish wives by the foreign marriages. Jehovah being the one common Father of all Israel, putting away an Israelite wife for a foreigner is a wrong done to a sister of the same family (Malachi 2:10-16). Explain Malachi 2:15; "did not He (God) make us Israelites one? Yet He had the residue of the Spirit (namely, an inexhaustible fullness of the Spirit for the rest of the world, but that was to be given them by God's first choosing out, one godly seed). And wherefore did He make us the one people? That He might seek a seed of God," to be the repository of the covenant, the stock for Messiah, the witness for God against surrounding polytheism. Repudiation of Jewish wives for foreigners set aside this, God's, design.
(4) In answer to their cavil, "where is the God of judgment?" Messiah's forerunner, followed by the sudden coming of Jehovah Himself the Angel of the covenant (which they had despised) to His temple, is foretold (Malachi 2:17-4:6). He shall on the one hand refine the sons of Levi, so that Judah's offering shall be pleasant unto Jehovah; on the other hand He shall be a swift witness against wrong doers, wherefore "return unto Me," instead of "robbing Me of tithes," "prove Me now herewith and I will pour you out a blessing," etc. But still they cavil at God's service bringing no "profit," while God's people commune together; so "the day of the Lord" cometh, consuming to the proud scorners, but with healing beams of the Sun of righteousness to fearers of God's name; ushered in by the forerunner Elijah, preaching a return to the law of Moses, and to the piety of Israel's forefathers, lest Jehovah come and smite the earth with a curse.
CANONICITY. Established by New Testament quotations (Matthew 11:10; Matthew 17:12; Mark 1:2; Mark 9:11-12; Luke 1:17; Romans 9:13). The "incense and pure offering from the rising to the setting of the sun" points on to the spiritual sacrifices of self devotion, prayer, and praise under the gospel, based on the once for all completed sacrifice of Messiah (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 8:3; Hebrews 13:10; Hebrews 13:15-16; Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:12); in every place (John 4:21-24; 1 Timothy 2:8). Style. Bold and abrupt, yet with the smoothness of a reasoner rather than a poet, at the same time modeled after the old prophets.
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'malachi' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".