Praying through the Prophets: Zechariah & Malachi

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The book of Malachi, like Zech. As noted in the Introduction, many scholars view Malachi as an anonymous work that freely floated at one time until, like the equally anonymous Zech. We observed, however, that the word massa in Zechariah need not be a heading at all because it may well be in the construct-genitive form in both cases, introducing in typical oracular style an entire pericope. Here in Malachi, on the other hand, it seems clear that the word is in the absolute state, that is, it stands independently as a heading.

Evidence for this, despite the similarity of wording in the initial clauses of both Zech. Though only two other passages Prov. It also bears witness to the unity of all the covenant people. That nation was, of course, Israel, not just Judah, in those pristine days at Sinai. However, this is not the case at all as the vast literature on the matter clearly shows. The critic assumes Zech.

If this is the case, the anonymity of Malachi has its requisite analogies. Abraham, Moses, and David out of scores that could be cited whose authenticity cannot be challenged and which, incidentally, are neither theophoric nor clearly hypocoristic. Finally, the fact that yk!

Reward Yourself

They will be known as the wicked territory, the people against whom YHWH has eternal indignation. This is clear from the election motif implied in the Jacob-Esau antithesis and in the technical language of covenant in vv. The scene shifts back to the patriarchal era when YHWH first made promise to Abraham of a seed and land through and in which he would bring blessing to all the earth Gen.

This was subsequently reaffirmed to Isaac Gen. Of particular importance is the narrative of Gen. There, by ruse and deceit, Jacob, though the younger son of Isaac, received both the birthright of the major share of the inheritance and the blessing to be transmitted forward in association with the seed and land promises. YHWH loved them because he had first loved their patronymic ancestor Jacob. What YHWH is saying here, then, is that in ancient times He chose Jacob to be the special recipient of His grace, the channel through whom He would mediate His salvific purposes.

He loved them by choosing their father, a choice that was never annulled and whose benefits extended to them. Even Babylonian destruction of state and temple and the exile of the flower of the community had not canceled the promise, for here they were, a century after the deportation, still alive and flourishing in their restored nation and renewed religious and social life.


In fact, v. As noted in the Introduction scholars have suggested many occasions to which the passage may be alluding. The history of Edom is so sparsely documented that it is impossible to be certain, but most likely the circumstance in mind is the series of Babylonian incursions into Palestine and the Transjordan from B. Jacob survived despite the Babylonian conquest whereas Esau did not. It is true that Edom at least partially recovered, a fact that v. In the end there was and is no Edom, but Israel continued and continues on.

Overview: Malachi

This primary meaning of the word makes an interesting repetitive device in connection with the secondary meaning in v. The overthrow of Edom, then, both past and future, speaks of the judgment of all wicked nations that arrogantly rise up against YHWH and His elect people. He had promised to the patriarchs that He would bless those who blessed them, but those who cursed them like Edom would be cursed.

This marked the course of Old Testament history and has never been abrogated. Thus there is an eschatological note here as well, for the exaltation of YHWH is a hallmark of the end times Mic. The subject of the exclamation of v. The oracle as a whole is addressed to Israel v.


The eyes that see this humiliation of Edom may be those of Israel or of Edom or both. As a whole, however, the reasons favoring it as a proper name outweigh the objections. Here the cold-hearted indifference of the priests in their service and in their teaching becomes most apparent, and it is this lack of love that is, covenant commitment on their part that prompts YHWH to remind them of His own faithfulness. How could the priests, who ought to epitomize the spirit of grateful compliance to the will of YHWH, reciprocate by being so professional and routine?

So jaded had they become that they could no longer recognize the elective grace of their God even when it stared them in the face. And when you offer the lame and sick, is that not evil as well?

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Indeed, offer it to your governor. With this kind of thing in your hands, how can He receive you with favor? By a series of comparisons and a fortiori arguments YHWH draws attention to the present backslidden condition of the cultus.


In the everyday world, He points out, children honor their parents and slaves respect their masters. How can the priests of God, who give at least nominal assent to His sovereignty, treat Him with such utter disdain? Again, the language here is the stock vocabulary of covenant. Evidence of their disdain is the fact that the priests despise the name of YHWH. The reason for referring to the altar here as a table is, first, to continue the human analogies already begun. Moreover, covenant relationships also presuppose the use of tables, inasmuch as these transactions were usually cemented in ceremonies involving common meals shared by the king and his vassals with whom he had entered into covenant fellowship.

The point is not that the sacrifices offered to YHWH were construed as food for Him to consume, a conception at home in ancient Near Eastern religions, but only that the prophet is again anticipating the gifts made to the governor, gifts that consisted of food supplies for his table. Having charged the priests with despising His altar, YHWH specifies how they have done so in response to their hypocritical query about it v. It is by presenting blind, lame, and sick sacrificial victims, animals that were ritually excluded according to the clear dictates of Torah law Deut.

The reason for the law in the first place and for its rigid application here is most obvious. It would be easy to part with livestock that was already of little value to the owner and sanctimoniously offer it up to YHWH as a pretense of devotion. Going through the pro forma of religious activity, they missed the real point: YHWH deserves the best. In fact, He says, would even a human governor accept such miserable fare? Surely not! And if that is the case, how presumptuous to think that the God of heaven and earth can suffer such indignity.

Who the particular governor may have been cannot be known because the date of the utterance is uncertain, but for the point to be made it matters not at all. The only remedy for this lamentable state of affairs is for the guilty priests to seek the face of YHWH in repentance.

Only then can His favor extend once more to them and to all the community whom they represent v. But it seems unlikely that such repentance is forthcoming. True repentance must be accompanied by a radically different behavior.

The forgiveness of YHWH may not require the offering of proper sacrifice as a prerequisite, but it certainly demands it as a consequence. Until and unless that comes to pass, the priests might as well desist from the charade and close the Temple doors altogether v.

Altar fires that burn spurious sacrifices are not worth kindling. The smoke and ashes they produce are an offense to a holy God, a stench in His nostrils rather than a sweet savor Isa. The rebuke here is reminiscent of that of earlier prophets who castigated their hypocritical contemporaries for confusing ritual with true worship.

Will YHWH be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? This is precisely the message of Malachi to the postexilic priests who had perverted their calling to such an extent that they no longer practiced biblical religion and no longer could distinguish between a sterile, hypocritical professionalism and a sense of genuine servanthood before God and on behalf of the community.

Should I accept this from you? The reason for the sacrilegious behavior of the priests of YHWH, described so graphically in vv. They betray most lucidly the principle that good works must originate in pure hearts.