Malachi’s unusual book begins with reassurance of God’s love for His people—and ends with the threat of a curse. Malachi was the last prophet of the old testament.
There is no mention of the last Old Testament prophet outside the book that bears his name. The fact that the word Malachi means “my messenger” in Hebrew has led some scholars to suggest it was not the prophet’s real name, just a title.
However, since the other prophetic books of the Old Testament use the writer’s personal name, there seems to be no reason to believe that Malachi’s book would do any differently.
Malachi lived during the restoration—the period following Israel’s return from exile. His reference to animal sacrifices (Malachi 1:6–14) indicates that the second temple was up and running by the time he wrote his prophecy. However, things were not as they should have been.
Everywhere Malachi turned, he saw nothing but corruption and apathy.
Priests sacrificed less-than-perfect animals, reserving the best for themselves. Israelite men married pagan women, much to the consternation of Malachi’s contemporaries, Ezra and Nehemiah. The rich deprived their employees of a fair wage. Widows, orphans, and foreigners were oppressed and discriminated against. God Himself was robbed, as people simply stopped tithing. In short, Israel was living as if God didn’t exist anymore.
Malachi paints a picture of people who felt slighted by God, only to reveal that they were the ones doing the slighting. Forsaking the lyrical poetry of other prophets, Malachi wrote in blunt narrative, outlining God’s grievances, one by one, and mercilessly dismantling any defense the people might have raised. While Malachi ended with the threat of a curse if the people refused to change, he also wrote of a “sun of righteousness” that would “rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2).
Four centuries later, Luke captured the words of an old man echoing Malachi as he anticipated the impending birth of Jesus, whom he identified as the “rising sun” that would come from heaven (Luke 1:78).
Despite the overarching theme of judgment, a vein of hope runs through Malachi. In the midst of presenting his grievances to the people, God also makes this promise: “Return to me, and I will return to you” (Malachi 3:7).