This month our Bible reading plan takes us to the Minor Prophets. To help us assemble these books and understand their message, here are a number of resources to Malachi, the first book of The Twelve. You can find more information about the Minor Prophets here.
Malachi does not have an historical introduction like Haggai and Zechariah, but there are enough context clues in the book to indicate it historical date as being around 450 B.C. As The ESV Study Bible observes,
Most scholars agree that Malachi was probably a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah in the mid-fifth century B.C. This is supported by the implied existence of the temple (Mal. 1:10; 3:1, 8), which requires a date after its reconstruction c. 516 B.C. Further support is offered by the reference to a “governor” (1:8), since this term is often used for regional officials during the Persian period (539–332 B.C.). The most compelling evidence for dating Malachi, however, is the substantial parallel between the sins reproved by Malachi and those reproved by Ezra and Nehemiah. These include corruption of the priesthood (Neh. 13:4–9, 29–31; Mal. 1:6–2:9), marriage to idolaters (Ezra 9–10; Neh. 10:30; 13:1–3, 23–27; Mal. 2:10–12), abuse of the disadvantaged (Neh. 5:1–13; Mal. 3:5), and failure to pay tithes (Neh. 10:32–39; 13:10–13; Mal. 3:8–10).
With this date, Malachi clearly identified as the final prophet in the Old Testament—a fact confirmed by the Babylonian Talmud, which states, “After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi had died, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel, but they still availed themselves of the voice from heaven (Yomah 9b). Likewise, the historical date of this book is confirmed by its placement as the last of the Twelve. And importantly, its theme of disputation with God, coupled with its final word of hope, provide a fitting conclusion to the Old Testament.
An Outline of Malachi
- Six Disputes — Yahweh makes a claim . . . Israel disagrees . . . Yahweh responds
- First Three Disputes — Expose Israel’s Corruption
- Dispute #1 (1:2–5)
- Dispute #2 (1:6–2:9)
- Dispute #3 (2:10–16)
- Second Three Disputes — Confront Israel’s Corruption
- Dispute #4 (2:17–3:5)
- Dispute #5 (3:6–12)
- Dispute #6 (3:13–18)
- Conclusion to the Disputes (4:1-3)
- First Three Disputes — Expose Israel’s Corruption
- Appendix to Malachi . . . the Minor Prophets . . . the Law and the Prophets (4:4–6)
While The Bible Project lists six disputes, Fuhr and Yates list seven and provide a helpful chart summarizing their contents (p. 305).
- Introduction (1:1)
- Seven Disputations (1:2–4:3)
- Final Prophetic Exhortation (4:4–4:6)
Seven Disputation Speeches
|Disputation 1||God’s Love for his Elect Nation (1:2–5)|
|Disputation 2||God’s is Worthy and Honor in Sacrifice (1:6–2:9)|
|Disputation 3||God Hates Covenant Unfaithfulness (2:10–16)|
|Disputation 4||God’s Justice Vindicated (2:17–3:5)|
|Disputation 5||God’s Faithfulness Affirmed (3:6–7)|
|Disputation 6||God Blesses the Faithful Giver (3:8–12)|
|Disputation 7||God Remembers the Righteous (3:13–4:3)|
The ESV Study Bible provides a helpful chiastic structure to the book of Malachi.
A. First disputation: Does God make a distinction between the good and the arrogantly wicked? God’s elective love vindicated in his judgment (1:2–5)
B. Second disputation: Israel’s begrudging offerings condemned (1:6–2:9)
C. Third disputation: Marriage to an idolater—and divorce based on aversion—condemned by the Lord, who is witness to the covenant of marriage (2:10–16)
C′. Fourth disputation: The Lord is a witness against adultery and other moral offenses (2:17–3:5)
B′. Fifth disputation: Israel’s begrudging offerings condemned (3:6–12)
A′. Sixth disputation: Does God make a distinction between the good and the arrogantly wicked? God’s elective love vindicated in his judgment (3:13–4:3)
In addition to the general structure of the book, the ESV Study Bible summarizes the content of the six disputes in this helpful chart.
Key Themes: Malachi’s Sixfold Wake-up Call to Renewed Covenant Fidelity
Malachi begins by defending the reality of God’s elective love for Israel, a love which calls for robust covenantal obedience and sincere worship as its proper response. Instead, the people were dishonoring God by their worthless offerings and the hypocritical formalism of their worship.
|Israel is to remember the Law of Moses.|
|Disputation 2||1:6–2:9||Malachi exposes these offenses and rebukes the priests for condoning them and thereby violating the Lord’s covenant with Levi.
|Disputation 3||2:10–16||Malachi condemns marriage to an idolater as infidelity against Israel’s covenant with the Lord, and he condemns unauthorized divorce as infidelity against the marriage covenant between a husband and his wife, to which the Lord is witness.
|Disputation 4||2:17–3:5||Malachi broadens his indictment as he promises that the Lord will vindicate his justice. This will take place when “the messenger of the covenant” comes to judge the wicked (when the Lord will function as a witness not only against adulterers, as in 2:10–16, but also against other offenders) and to purify his people so that their offerings will be acceptable at last.
|Israel is to remember the promise of Elijah and the coming day of the Lord.
|Disputation 5||3:6–12||Malachi returns to the subject of Israel’s begrudging offerings. The people experienced material adversity and were under a curse—not in spite of their behavior, but because of it. Accordingly, Malachi challenges them to conscientious tithing, which will be rewarded with divine blessing.
|Disputation 6||3:13–4:3||Malachi assures his grumbling contemporaries that evildoers, who seem to escape divine justice because of their prosperity, will yet be judged, while the Lord will deliver those who fear him.
|Summary||4:4–6||Malachi summarizes the main points of his prophecy: remember the Law of Moses (the focus of disputations 1–3), and remember the promise of Elijah and the coming day of the Lord (the focus of disputations 4–6).
Overview Sermons on Malachi
- Malachi by Richard Belcher
- Major Points from Malachi by John Blanchard
- Does It Matter How I Worship God? The Message of Malachi by Mark Dever
Sermon Series on Malachi
Here is a sermon series from Old Testament scholar Iain Duguid and Christ Presbyterian pastor Matt Harmon.
- Honoring the King (Malachi 1:6–14) by Iain Duguid
- Role Reversal (Malachi 2:1–9) by Matt Harmon
- Faithless Spouses and a Faithful God(Malachi 2:10–16) by Iain Duguid
- Longing for Justice (Malachi 2:17–3:6) by Iain Duguid
- Generosity (Malachi 3:6–12) by Matt Harmon
- Hard Words for God (Malachi 3:13–4:6) by Iain Duguid
Via Emmaus Articles on The Twelve
- Reading the Minor Prophets Together: Ten Observations from Paul House’s ‘The Unity of the Twelve’
- Finding Theological Unity in The Twelve: Reading the Minor Prophets with Richard Fuhr and Gary Yates
- The Theological Message of the Twelve
- Putting the Prophets in Their Place: An Introduction to the Historical Background of the Minor Prophets
Books on Malachi
Books on the Minor Prophets
- Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr. and Gary E. Yates, The Message of the Twelve: Hearing the Voice of the Minor Prophets (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2016).
- Paul House, The Unity of the Twelve (New York: T & T Clark).
Books on the Prophets in General
- Peter J. Gentry, How to Read and Understand the Prophets (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017).
- O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2004).
- Aaron Chalmers, Interpreting the Prophets: Reading, Understanding and Preaching from the Worlds of the Prophets (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015)
Soli Deo Gloria, ds