Malachi (Mal’aki) the Prophet
By: Rev. Fr. David J. Davis, DD, OSP
Mal’aki was a member of the Great Assembly at the beginning of a second Jewish Commonwealth or State and listed in scripture as the last of the Old Testament prophets. Because of Talmudic legends, some regarded him to be the hero of the Purim story of Esther, Mordechai, but his name sometimes interpreted (Malach), meant angel, or servant of God. He is also been thought to be Ezra the Scribe because Ezra used Mal’aki as a pseudonym in his writings. I believe that Mal’aki is a different person altogether.
The book itself is announced in its purpose, in that Mal’aki is a reference to the final prophecy of his book which opens with the words, Hineni sholeach Mal’aki (“Behold I send My messenger”). Only four chapters in length, it is a principal reason why Mal’aki is considered “minor, one of the Trei Asar, Twelve Minor Prophets.” He is thought to be a contemporary of Jeremiah, and perhaps received this prophecy earlier while Jeremiah was active, and along with Chaggai, and Zechariah, he delivered this later. It is the Talmud which declares his prophecy as the conclusion of the prophetic period, during the second year of King Darius’ reign according to the rebuilding efforts of Nehemiah. The Talmud states, “After the last prophets Chaggai, Zechariah, and Mal’aki died, the Divine Spirit of prophetic revelation departed from the Jewish people.”
Mal’aki denotes the great intimacy that has developed between Yahusha Elohim, and His people clearly seen in the first line of the prophecy, “I have shown you [Ibry] love, said the Elohim. But you ask, “How have You shown us love?” After all—declares the Elohim—Esaw is Ya’aqob’s brother; yet I have accepted Ya’aqob and have rejected Esaw.” Much has been made over this description of love vs. hate yet it is a expression of a fundamental an Yisra-el thought. That is that though brothers may come from the same household and appear to be equals, their identities and destines are not necessarily aligned. This is evident in that Elohim chose Yisra-el and not Esau as the progenitor of a chosen people. Rabbi Yosef Albo explains that the love described by Elohim in these verses is supra-rational; it cannot be justified by logic alone. It is a love of choice. God having foreknowledge and discerning the end from the beginning made a choice. The term love here is about election as much as about affection.
In Chapter One Mal’aki identifies the target of Elohim’s favor and proceeds to tell the who they are to Him. “For I am the Elohim—I have not changed; and you are the children of Jacob—you have not ceased to be.18
The prelude to the daily prayers includes the following declaration of Mal’aki’s:
You were the same before the world was created; You are the same since the world has been created.”
Following this loving, sentimental and nation identifying of Yisra-el, the true purpose of the prophecy becomes lucid, the prophecy was written to correct the lax religious and social behaviour of the Yisra–elites, particularly the priests – in post-exilic Jerusalem. The people had departed so far from Yahusha, that when Ezra the prophet came out in the morning to read from the Torah in Nehemiah 8, he had to interpret the text, because they people only spoke Chaldean. They had lost their native language, and their worship. So, while the priests were going about their duties, they had forgot and forsaken the responsibilities to obey the Lord. God mandated the people should only bring the best animals, firstborn, without spot or blemish, but the priests through the substandard sacrifices which Mal’aki claims are being offered by the priests ignored (Leviticus 1:3, NRSV), and so these priests, who were “to determine whether the animal was acceptable” (Mason 143), were offering blind, lame and sick animals for sacrifice because they thought nobody would notice.
He promises the people that Yahweh Sabaoth, (God of War) is coming to bring a curse upon those priests in 2:1.
Beginning in 2:10, He addresses the issue of divorce and domestic relations. He tells the people that they have reduced the covenant blood oath of marriage to a social domestic arrangement giving men the ability to treat the “wives of their youth” treacherously. He accuses the male-men of being faithless and refers to the fact that marriage is a part of the Yisra-el faith, God standing as the judge whose interest is the “righteous seed” that comes from such a union of matrimony. He therefore urges the men to stop their sexual wanderings and remain faithful.
In chapter 3, the last leg of Faith, Family, and Finances completes the three legs of correction beginning at verse 8 through verse 15, the subject is not the tithe. The tithe is incidental to the then current methodology to the established method of financing the temporal needs of the temple. It does not focus on the tithes but rather on “robbing God” or being faithful and honest in our dealings. The text never uses the word “pay” in the tithe, but rather establishes the fact that the tithe already belonged to God. It was never a question of withholding the worshiper’s property or possession, it was stealing something that belonged to another by force. In regard to this type of honoring or giving the offering’s efficacy was established by the attitude of the giver.
The final issue addressed by Mal’aki is the eschatological Day of the Lord in 4:1-5, in which “judgment is coming in the form of a messenger who “is like refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap…”