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This short book may have been written before Nehemiah’s first return to Jerusalem in 445 B.C.; it is also possible that it was written while Nehemiah was there, or even later. What seems to be the author’s name, mal’ākî, is found in 1:1 (“the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi”), but many believe that this is a pseudonym based on mal’ākî, “my messenger,” in 3:1 and that the author’s real name is unknown. In any case, he shows us attitudes and behaviors characteristic of the Jewish community a few generations after the end of the Babylonian exile, and describes God’s response.

God loves Israel (1:25), but the people return that love poorly. Taking advantage of the negligent attitude of the priests, they withhold tithes and sacrificial contributions (3:611) and cheat God by providing defective goods for sacrifice (1:614). People divorce their spouses and marry worshipers of other gods (2:1016). Sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, and people who take advantage of workers and the needy abound (3:5). Priests, who could strengthen discipline by their instruction, connive with the people, telling them what they want to hear (2:19). Underlying all this is a weary attitude, a cynical notion that nothing is to be gained by doing what God wants and that wrongdoers prosper (2:17; 3:1415). God condemns the wrongdoing and the underlying attitude, issuing a challenge to immediate reform (3:1012), but also announcing a general reckoning at a future moment (3:1621).

The Book of Malachi may be divided as follows:

  1. Israel Preferred to Edom (1:25)
  2. Offense in Sacrifice and Priestly Duty (1:62:9)
  3. Marriage and Divorce (2:1016)
  4. Purification and Just Judgment (2:17)
  5. The Messenger of the Covenant (3:15)
  6. Gifts for God, Blessings for the People (3:612)
  7. The Need to Serve God (3:1321)
  8. Moses and Elijah (3:2224)

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