The Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) 20: Malachi

Date: 11/8/2009
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Malachi means “my messenger” and probably was not a personal name. The temple was rebuilt about 515 B.C. Just before Ezra and Nehemiah, about 435 B.C., is the time of Malachi’s message. Much of the language is shaped by the “grain offering” (1:11, minchah, Lev. 2), memorial “bread” (1:7, lechem). Leviticus 2:4 says,    “Now when you bring an offering of a grain offering baked in an oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers spread with oil. . . 2:9 The priest then shall take up from the grain offering its memorial portion, and shall offer it up in smoke on the altar as an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”

The Minchah/Grain Offering is a rich image of our relation to God. The NT draws upon this in  1 Corinthians 10:16, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 10:17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” We are the grain made into bread with the cohesion of the oil of the Spirit and made into the holy loaf by the fire of His presence.

Malachi references repeatedly the Tribute Offering/Grain Offering (1:10, 11, 13, 2:12, 2:13, 3:3, 3:4): “He also brought the grain offering (mincha), took a handful of it and burned it on the altar in addition to the morning’s burnt offering” (Lev. 9:17). This offering is translated variously and also included a “drink offering” of wine (hence “bread” and “wine” - Lev. 23:13, e.g., at the Feast of Unleavened Bread). The word, “mincha” is translated “gift” in other passages, such as where Jacob brought “presents” or “gifts” to appease Esau (Gen. 32:13). Note in Lev. 9:17 that while the “holocaust” (whole burnt offering) is given, so also is this “tribute” or gift offering of grain they occur at the same time (Josh 22:23,29; Judges 13:19, 23; 1 Kings 8:64; 2 Kings 16:13,15). It is connected with the aroma as one of three sacrifices that produce "an aroma pleasing to the Lord" (Lev. 1:9,17; 2:2,9,12; 3:5,16).

The Place of Israel - The prophecy begins asserting the special place of Israel: “‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD...’I have loved Jacob’” (1:2). The Lord loves Israel uniquely and as a father (1:2, 1:6) over against Esau/Edom. “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations,” yet Israel’s worship is profane (1:11). Israel held a special place but did not worship like it.

The Pollution of Israel - Like in Nehemiah/Ezra, Malachi calls for repentance from the corruption of the priesthood (1:6-2:9; Neh 13:4-9, 29-30), interfaith marriage (2:10-12; Ezr 9-10; Ne. 10:30; 13:1-3, 23-27), unethical behavior (3:5; Neh 5:1-13), and the failure to tithe (3:8-10; Neh 10:32-39; 13:10-13). They were disrespecting God by offering unacceptable sacrifices. The priests, who were to  “preserve knowledge” (2:7) and instruct in righteousness were corrupt and “despise My name” (1:6) by “presenting defiled food upon My altar/Table” (1:7). They had a special covenant of peace because of Phineas (2:4, Num 25:12). They were not to offer damaged sacrifices (Deut 15:21), that which costs nothing (2 Sam 24:24). Rather than raise a “godly seed,” they engaged in covenant breaking by marrying “the daughter of a foreign god” (2:11) and by divorcing “the wife of your youth... your companion and your wife by covenant” (2:14). They also robbed God by not bringing “tithes and offerings” (3:8). Israel was polluted by covenant breaking sins, so the Lord promised to visit His temple in judgment (3:1).

The Promise of Israel - The conclusion of Malachi includes the glorious promises of Messiah’s coming. “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (4:2). John the Baptist fulfills the role of “My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me” (3:1) who functioned as “Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.” 4:6 “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6). After this promise there was four hundred years of prophetic silence. Then John the Baptist: sounded the words that ended the prophetic silence saying, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Exhortations: We are the bread of God. Malachi warns u

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more