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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Malachi - Introduction

‘Malachi’ in Hebrew means ‘my messenger’, from which many commentators have concluded that the book stems from an anonymous prophet to whom its editors gave the name ‘my messenger’ on the basis of Mal 3:1 . Meinhold (1991 ) maintains that the actual name is found on an Ostracon from Arad from the seventh century (Davies 1991: no. 2.097). If Malachi is a name it is a shortened form of Malachiah, meaning ‘messenger of YHWH’.

Little can be said with certainty about the date and setting of the book, except that it belongs to the Second Temple period. It is common to place it in the early part of the fifth century BCE on the grounds (1) that it mentions abuses that were later dealt with by Ezra and Nehemiah (i.e. before c. 458), (2) that it assumes, with Deuteronomy, that there is no difference between priests and Levites and generally seems to be closer to the spirit of Deuteronomy than the later Priestly Code, and (3) that linguistic analyses of Malachi show the book to have closest affinity with other texts of around 480 BCE. All of these claims can be—and have been—contested. In any case, so little is known about the history of Hebrew language and society in the Persian period that any date down to 350 BCE is possible. There is also uncertainty about the social setting of the book, with plausible suggestions as widely opposed as seeing Malachi as a priest or as an eschatological prophet addressing the aspirations of an oppressed underclass. A radical view, expressed by Utzschneider (1992 ), is that Malachi is Schriftprophetie, that is, prophecy by means of the literary interpretation of older traditions.

What is certain is that Malachi contains a unique set of dialogues in which the complaints and fears of the people are expressed, and in which God reproves the people, answers their complaints, and stresses his trustworthiness.

The Hebrew and English chapter divisions diverge at the end of the book, with 3:19–24 in Hebrew being 4:1–6 in English.

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