Lesson 1 of5
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Summary of Malachi

SUMMARY

The period of exuberance and the energy experienced when the exiles returned from Babylon and rebuilt the temple has given way to a diminishing regard for obeying the law. Even priests have become lethargic and corrupt in their religious practices. Malachi urges a return to covenant obedience, faithful sacrifices, and tithes. He alerts the people that God will send another messenger before the Day of the Lord.

SO WHAT?

Congregations all have their ups and downs, periods of energy and success, too often followed by a let-down. This book addresses exactly that situation. The effort and enthusiasm of the exiles as they returned from Babylon and rebuilt the temple have been followed by a lethargy and slovenliness even among priests. Malachi’s message urges us today to restore our dedication and faithfulness as we await the coming Day of the Lord.

WHERE DO I FIND IT?

Malachi is the thirty-ninth and last book of the Old Testament.

WHO WROTE IT?

In Hebrew malaki means “my messenger.” In 3:1, “See, I am sending my messenger,” the messenger is malaki. Most scholars assume the author of this book took “malachi” as a pen name. In a double sense, “Malachi” is the messenger bringing us this book, and his message is that God will send another messenger in the future, as the great prophet Elijah returning before the Day of the Lord.

WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?

The reference to “your governor” (1:8) dates the book in the postexilic period, when Judah was ruled by governors, such as Zerubbabel and later Nehemiah. It was probably written several decades-up to a century-after Haggai and Zechariah, since the content of the book suggests that the vigilance and faithfulness of returning exiles has diminished into unfaithfulness. Indeed, it may have been written in the mid-400s B.C.E., around or during the time of Nehemiah’s rule, since Nehemiah and Malachi address many of the same concerns-cultic reform, faithful tithing, divorce, and mixed marriage (Nehemiah 10:28-39, 13:10-14; 23-31).

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

The book is an indictment of the corruption and wickedness into which the priests and people have fallen following the rebuilding of the temple by the exiles returning from Babylon.

HOW DO I READ IT?

We reflect on our own ministries and congregations as we read this book. Have we lost enthusiasm following a new building, a new program, or a change of pastors? Have we clearly defined our parish’s mission and ministry? How can we best be faithful to the covenant promises God has made with us? Malachi urges us to avoid complacency and to strive constantly to be faithful.

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