From the Editor’s Notebook: Minor Prophets, Malachi

From the Editor’s Notebook

Outline Studies of the Minor Prophets

Malachi: The Book of Gathering Gloom

Key Word: Declension or Apostasy.

Message: “Remember, Repent, Return, Rehearse” (Robert Lee).1

Or, as Eric W. Hayden has summarized: “The Sin of External Observance Without Internal Experience.”2

Key Verses: 3:8 — “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” 3:10 — “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”


Malachi means “my messenger” and it seems best to take it as a personal name rather than an appellation based on 3:1. Malachi was later than Haggai and Zechariah, the temple having long been completed with the priesthood and worship having been in operation many years. He evidently ministered some time after Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s correction of current abuses, for once again decline had set in. As Nehemiah was the last of the Old Testament historians, Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets, having appeared around 433-425 B.C.

Malachi was evidently fond of his name and delighted to repeat it (cf. 2:7, 3:1). The meaning of his name was a description of his office. As to his personal biography, nothing is known, although judging something of the man by his book it would seem that Malachi possessed a strong and vigorous personality, being conscious of a divine call to the work of moral and spiritual reformation. The spiritual life of the people was at a low ebb, and many of the evils against which past prophets had protested were once more widespread. While idolatry had vanished, the people in their backslidden condition were hypercritical and guilty of hollow formalism and complaining skepticism. Robbery of God is a sad keynote of the book and reflects the gross materialism of the age. Malachi was thus sent by God to denounce those practices in connection with the spiritual, moral, social and material aspect of things which were dishonoring to Him and His worship. The differing attributes of God’s love and wrath are quite apparent in the book. Furthermore, the prophecy is notable for its dialogue style, eight sarcastic questions being addressed to God. “Wherein” occurs seven times (1:2, 6, 7; 2:17; 3:7, 8, 13), while the expression “ye say” occurs twelve times (1:2, 6. 7, 12, 13; 2:14, 17; 3:7, 8, 13, 14). The prophecy can be divided or outlined by these expressions.


1. The Message of Confirmation (1:1-5)

2. The Message of Condemnation (1:6 -2:17)

3. The Message of Consolation (3-4).

Notable Notes

Being the last of the prophets, someone has said of Malachi that “his prophecies therefore have a grave and solemn importance, and on two accounts. First as showing the state of the remnant who, in the tender mercy of God, had been brought back from Babylon; and secondly, because of the correspondence of the position of this remnant with that of God’s people at the present moment. As there was nothing between them, so there is nothing to intervene between them, so there is nothing to intervene between ourselves and the expectation of the Lord’s return.”

W. Graham Scroggie has summed up the attitude of the people as follows: “Religiously, they were guilty of profanity and sacrilege; morally, of sorcery, adultery, perjury, fraud, and oppression; socially, they were untrue to their family responsibilities; and materially, they were ‘robbing God’ of the tithes due to Him.”3

As to the application of Malachi’s message, Scroggie has further stated, and this, in an apt way: “Malachi’s message is eminently necessary and appropriate today, for these abuses have their equivalent in the modern church. How prevalent is ‘a form of godliness,’ the power being denied; how weak are multitudes of Christians with regard to great moral questions; how frequent is alliance in marriage of saved and unsaved; and how shamefully lax are Christians in the matter of giving of their substance for the maintenance of God’s work. To this situation Malachi still speaks.”4

Malachi’s prophecy ends with a reference back to Moses, the great representative of the law, and forward to Elijah, the great representative of the prophets. He then foretold the coming again of Elijah, a coming which at least had a partial fulfillment in the ministry of John the Baptist.

The very heart of hope in Malachi’s prophecy is found in 3:10, 16-18.

It is noteworthy that the last word of Malachi, the last word of the Old Testament, and the last word before the long silence of 400 years fell, was the solemn, sobering word “curse.” With that fearful word sounding in his ears, the Jew came to the end of his Bible. At the close of the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, we read of a “coffin.” Thus, summing up the entire scope of the Old Testament, all was failure. However, the New Testament opens and closes with the Second Man, the Lord from Glory has come, and grace is triumphant at last.

As John Phillips has thoughtfully stated: “The New Testament begins where the Old Testament ends. Without the New Testament, the Old Testament tells of a beginning without an ending, relates hundreds of promises and predictions without any lasting fulfillments, and begins with blessings and ends with a curse. Gratefully we now acknowledge that the silence of God has been broken. God has spoken to us in these last days in His Son.”5

In Malachi the LORD JESUS CHRIST is revealed as the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

1 Robert Lee, The Outlined Bible.

2 Eric W. Hayden, Preaching Through the Bible, p. 172.

3 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, I, pp. 217-18.

4 Ibid., p. 218.

5 John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures, p. 183.