Malachi Table of  Contents

Main Table of Contents

 

Minor Prophets: Major Messages

The Book of Malachi
 

How to Use This Study Guide

1. A careful, unhurried reading of Malachi is essential. Reading the chapter before looking at the notes, while working with the notes, and after finishing with the notes will give each researcher a powerful sense of the series of meanings within each chapter. It is important to be comfortable with all the names and places in the prophecy and to understand the announcements the prophet makes on behalf of the Lord. When possible, historical information will be included in the notes to increase reading comprehension and enhance application.

2.Our study of each chapter of Malachi will begin with quotes from a work of the Writings called Summary Exposition of the Prophets and Psalms (P&P). This work includes a verse-by-verse overview of all four chapters of Malachi that provides general information about the internal sense. Our research will help move us from the generals to the particulars of the internal sense.

3. Another important reference tool is Searle’s General Index to Swedenborg’s Scripture Quotations . This reference is used to find passages in the Writings where a verse(s) from the Word is either explained specifically or used to illustrate a doctrinal point that we can use in our study. There is also another use of this work. As we study, each researcher will be led by the Lord’s Providence in myriad ways, according to specific needs or states. Knowing how to use this book will help each of us to explore relevant topics and look up related passages to increase our knowledge of the three-fold Word. 

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4. You will soon discover that not every verse, word, name, etc. is directly quoted in the Writings. But there are often other references to the same name, place, or thing in the explanation of a different verse of the Word. The hope is that reflection on these other doctrinal explanations will help us see possible applications to our study of Malachi. We will need to use “derived doctrine” often. Please don’t run away from this maligned term. If we use it properly and admit openly that it is derived doctrine, we bring no harm to the internal sense.

5. Keep some kind of notebook handy during your study times. Write out insights, questions, and any summaries you find helpful in organizing your thoughts about each chapter. The goal of this study guide is not to give a detailed summary of the internal sense but to start each researcher’s quest for deeper insight.

6. At the end of each chapter in the study guide, you will find a study review. The review includes a summary of each section to help you reinforce and build on your understanding of several of the key points.

7. Begin each study unit with a devotional prayer asking the Lord to guide and direct your thoughts. Certainly, beginning in this sphere has the power to inspire and open our minds with a higher spiritual priority that will keep us in the company of the Lord’s angels. As the Writings teach, we must seek to love truth for truth’s sake. Such an approach will free each reader from preconceived ideas that might limit his or her ability to “see” the intent and message of the Lord’s Word.

Introduction

Welcome to the study of Malachi. Malachi is the last book of the twelve Minor Prophets and the last book in the Old Testament. Malachi’s prophecy was followed by a period of four to five hundred years of prophetic silence before the Lord’s advent occurred.

 

This introduction will focus on the examination of the following points:

  1. Malachi’s background.
  2. The approximate dates of his life and prophecy.
  3. The message of Malachi, the “Lord’s Messenger.”
  4. The unique style of Malachi’s prophecy.

Malachi's background

" No one knows who the author of the book was; the name “Malachi” is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning ‘My Messenger.’ Nor can anyone be certain as to when the author lived, although modern scholarship tends to give much credence to the ancient tradition to the effect that he lived sometime about 400 or 350. (There are still authorities…who would date Malachi much later than this; and there are others who would date him as early as the eighth century.)” Pre-Advent Churches, by Ormond Odhner, page 308.

I cite this statement because there has been considerable scholarly debate as to whether or not “Malachi” is a proper name or a common noun. If it is a noun, then this book is by an anonymous writer who refers to himself as “My messenger” or the “Messenger of Jehovah.”

The following background information about Malachi and his prophecy is derived from a series of online essays on “The Minor Prophets” authored by Al Maxey. The essay on Malachi is available at http://www.zianet.com/maxey/Proph13.htm.

The LXX (Septuagint) treats the word “Malachi” as a noun rather than as a proper name. The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel (an Aramaic paraphrase of the prophetic books dating from the 4th or 5th century AD) includes this phrase: “ My messenger who is Ezra the scribe.” Josephus, when describing the major characters of the period, fails to mention Malachi among them. Even where Malachi is quoted in the New Testament (Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27 ), his name is not mentioned in the citations. Is the omission of Malachi’s name of spiritual significance?

Some scholars think Ezra was the author of Malachi. Others believe Malachi originally was part of the prophetic book of Zechariah but was made into a separate book to make the Minor Prophets amount to the sacred number 12. So much more could be pulled into this quest to know about Malachi’s background but to what end?

 

Approximate Dates

If “Malachi” is a name and not a noun, it is possible to identify a general date when this work was written by noting the history of Israel’s exile and the rebuilding of the temple. The Babylonian captivity of the Jews ended in 536 BC when Cyrus allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland. With the leadership of Haggai and Zechariah, the people rebuilt the temple. The dates of this happening are between 520 and 516 BC. Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah wrote about the same sad and deteriorating spiritual conditions within the temple and among its priests. Was Malachi a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah? If so, the book of Malachi might have been written in the period of 445 to 425 BC.

But eventually, we probably will agree with Ormond Odhner: “No one knows who the author of the book was…nor can anyone be certain as to when the author lived…” So if we don’t know who the author was, how can we pinpoint a date? This is something we have had to face with many of the Minor Prophets. Our New Church perspective teaches us that we are not to focus on the person who wrote the prophetic book. Instead, we are to concentrate on the contents of the spiritual sense of the Word. Given the choice, what would we consider most profitable in the study of this book of the Word: knowing about the man who wrote it or knowing the spiritual sense of this prophecy in the Word?

The message of Malachi, the “Lord’s Messenger”

The message of Malachi calls the hearer to consider the Lord’s providential care in bringing about the great release from Babylonian captivity. He reminds his listeners that the temple had been rebuilt, the walls of the city fortified again, and the sacrificial system reinstituted. They had a degree of security from foreign aggression. But their enthusiasm for worship had been replaced by mechanical, ritualistic practice that was far from spiritual. Other gods slipped into the services within the temple. The worshippers’ hearts were not with the Lord but with themselves. Relationships with the Lord and with one another were falling apart.

Malachi sought to turn the people’s enthusiasm to doing what was pleasing to the Lord. To do this, he had to speak hard words about the lapses within the priesthood and the temple. Malachi called for the priests and the people to hear and behold the error of their ways:

  • The priests were not providing moral and spiritual leadership. They were contemptuous in discharging their duties. Their gifts to the Lord were lame, blind, and sick. Instead of giving their best to the Lord, they were offering Him their worst.
  • The uses of supporting the work of the temple were neglected; tithing had ceased. The people neglected to make financial gifts or donate their time.
  • Divorce and intermarriage with pagan wives were tolerated and sanctioned.
  • The people had become disillusioned and doubtful of the Lord’s love for them. They saw little use in serving the Lord. Cynicism and rebellion thrived within the heart of the nation.
  • Editorializing, one might say the people were neither interested nor impressed with what the Lord had done for them in the past. It mattered more to them what they felt He was doing in the here-and-now of their lives.

 

The unique style of Malachi’s prophecy

The Book of Malachi uses the method of “disputation.” An assertion or charge is made against the church and people, a fancied (haughty) objection is raised by the hearers, and then a refutation of the objection is presented by the speaker on behalf of the Lord.

The text of Malachi is a debate with those who call into question the Lord’s goodness and justice. Let’s get a quick overview of where this style is used:
·       Malachi 1:2 “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord…‘In what way have You loved us?’ ‘Yet Jacob I have loved...’”
·       Malachi 1:6 “…To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’”
·       Malachi 1:7 “You offer defiled food on My altar. But you say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind…lame and sick, is it not evil?”
·       Malachi 1:11 “…For My name shall be great among the nations…But you profane it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled…You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it…”
·       Malachi 2:11-16 “…He has married the daughter of a foreign god…You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying…Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’...For the Lord God…hates divorce…”
·       Malachi 2:17 “You have wearied the Lord with your words; yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?...Where is the God of justice?’”
·       Malachi 3:7 “Return to Me…but you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’”
·       Malachi 3:8 “Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.”
·       Malachi 3:13-14 “Your words have been harsh against Me…yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God.’”

We would do well in our study of Malachi to reflect for a moment, at some point, on how we might turn all of the negative “disputations” into positive responses.

  • You have loved Me, Lord, and here are the ways I see that Love in my life.
  • I will seek to offer the best sacrifices of my life to celebrate Your name and divine qualities.
  • I will work toward the preservation of Your conjugial principles. I will at all times seek to wed my will and understanding into a marriage that honors the Lord.
  • I will not arrogantly (haughtily) question your judgment and justice.
  • My time, my tithes will be given in a daily thought and reflection period for You.
  • The work I do for the Lord is not a vain thing. The work of the New Church is vital work. It is a church that needs me to seek for the best understanding of the Lord’s truth in His Word.

Malachi 3:10-12 makes this promise to those who seek the ways of the Lord:

“‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ says the Lord of hosts; ‘and all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

This passage is packed with correspondences. It deals with remains being brought into the memory. It is a divine invitation to try the Lord and see that He is good. Notice the word “if.” If we try the Lord, if we allow the remains of good to feed us, the windows of heaven will open and in will be poured blessings we would never have dreamed possible. Our “cup” will “run over.” The Lord promises to rebuke the devourers of hell. He will increase our understanding and will. Others will call us blessed (happy) and will find us to be a delightful land.

Notice also the repetition of phrases in this verse. Repetition is not for effect. Repetition is not for poetical beauty. Repetition is for spiritual purposes. The phrase “says the Lord of hosts” occurs three times. One is for the will, one is for the understanding, and one is for uses. What does the phrase “says the Lord of hosts” represent? Apocalypse Explained (AE) 453 [6] gives us this insight: “‘Jehovah of Hosts’…signifies the arrangement of truths from good by the Lord against the falsities from evil…” Hence we have a promise from the Lord that He will fight for His church to save it and for all of the people within His church. The Lord’s zeal will win over the forces of hell. He will rescue and preserve the remnant so that a New Church will be born that will last for ever and ever.

The word “if” is a conditional word. The Lord awaits an answer from us. If we try Him, if we open the door (or window), He will come in and give us infinite blessings. What a great invitation the “Messenger of the Lord” brings to the church in The Book of Malachi.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20, emphasis added)

 

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