Malachi is the final book of the Old Testament. It is a collection of writings from the prophet Malachi, who spoke on God’s behalf to the Israelites living in Jerusalem about 100 years after the exile.

In the previous Old Testament books, God promises hope and blessing for the people of Israel if they remain faithful to Him and obey Him.

Malachi, like the other prophets, reiterates this truth: God is faithful and just. He loves His people, desires their wholehearted worship, but will judge the world for the people’s sins.

Malachi’s structure is unique. The book is written as a series of six disputes between God and the people.

In these disputes, God argues that He loves His people and has chosen them among all other nations to be His people, but these people continue to break their covenant with God through unfaithfulness, idolatry, disrespect, disobedience and selfishness.

God argues that the people have disrespected Him and His Temple by offering unworthy sacrifices. The priests are unfaithful because they do not teach the Law and the men have committed idolatry by divorcing their wives and marrying women who worship other gods.

In chapters 2 and 3, the people of Israel ask God when the corruption and injustice in the world will end, and God promises to send a messenger who will purify the nation of Israel “like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap” (Malachi 3:2) before God Himself will show up to His people.

God then implores the people to turn back to Him. He commands them to honor Him by tithing—giving the first 10% of their income and crops back to God by donating it to the Temple. The people had neglected this responsibility.

The last dispute is about remaining faithful to God. The people see being faithful as pointless, because they see wicked people prosper every day. God explains that those who are faithful to Him will be His treasured possession; He will write a “scroll of remembrance” in their honor. For those who fear the Lord, the coming Day of the Lord, spoken by the other prophets, will not be a day of fear, but one of rejoicing.

The book ends with a sort of appendix to the entire Old Testament. The last three verses command the reader to remember the Torah and look forward to a time when God will send the prophet Elijah (which foreshadows the ministry of John the Baptist) to usher in the Day of the Lord.

INTERTESTAMENTAL PERIOD

Malachi is the last prophet in the Bible before the time known as the intertestamental period. There were about 400 years of unrecorded Biblical history between the last words of Malachi and the first events of the Gospels—400 years between the last prophetic promise of the coming Messiah and His arrival.

THEMES

The sin condition: The book of Malachi shows the reader that God’s chosen people are guilty of continuing to sin against God.

God created humanity; He made a covenant of faithfulness with Israel; He saved them from bondage in Egypt; He gave them His Law; He saved them from enemies over and over; He sent His own presence to dwell in the Temple; He sent prophets to try to convince them to set aside their sinful ways and remain faithful to Him.

But still, the people of Israel rebelled against God.

God’s faithfulness: In spite of all of this rebellion and corruption, God is still faithful to His people. He promises to send a messenger and then send Himself to save the people and defeat evil.

KEY PASSAGES

Malachi 1:2-6

Malachi 2:17-3:5

Malachi 3:16-4:6

HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?

Malachi is the final prophet to the people of Israel in the Old Testament.

The book leaves readers with questions. When will Elijah return? When will the Day of the Lord finally come? Will these promises God made really come true?

If you flip just one page of your Bible, you’ll begin to find the answers.