When you think of Old Testament books, Malachi probably doesn’t make the top five. Yet, this minor prophet book touches on important subjects, like divorce. Since it’s lesser-known book, we’ve pulled introductory material, notes, and articles from the newly revised NIV Study Bible. Join us for a quick dive into the book of Malachi.

INTRODUCTION TO MALACHI

The following information is pulled directly from the NIV Study Bible Fully Revised Edition. We didn’t include all the introductory notes because, well, it’s a lot! But the paragraphs we did include will provide good context for the rest of our study.

Author

The book is ascribed to Malachi, whose name means “my messenger.” Since the term occurs in 3:1, and since both prophets and priests were called messengers of the Lord (2:7; Hag 1:13), some have thought “Malachi” to be only a title that tradition has given the author. The view has been supported by appeal to the Septuagint (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT), which translates the term in 1:1 “his messenger” rather than as a proper noun. How- ever, this would be the only case in which a prophetic book was not entitled with a proper name. So it is likely that Malachi was the author’s name.

Background

Spurred on by the prophetic activity of Haggai and Zechariah, the returned exiles under the leadership of their governor, Zerubbabel, finished the temple in 516 BC. In 458 the community was strengthened by the coming of the priest Ezra and several thousand more Jews. Artaxerxes I, king of Persia, encouraged Ezra to reconstitute the temple worship (Ezr 7:17) and to make sure the law of Moses was being obeyed (Ezr 7:25–26).

Fourteen years later (444) the same Persian king permitted his cupbearer Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls (Ne 6:15). As newly appointed governor, Nehemiah also spear- headed reforms to help the poor (Ne 5:2–13) and convinced the people to shun mixed marriages (Ne 10:30), to keep the Sabbath (Ne 10:31) and to bring their tithes and offerings faithfully (Ne 10:37–39).

In 433 BC Nehemiah returned to the service of the Persian king, and during his absence the Jews fell into sin once more. Later, however, Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem to discover that the tithes were ignored, the Sabbath was broken, the people had intermarried with foreigners, and the priests had become corrupt (Ne 13:7–31). Several of these same sins are condemned by Malachi (1:6–14; 2:14–16; 3:8–11).

Date

The similarity between the sins denounced in Nehemiah and those denounced in Malachi suggests that the two leaders were contemporaries. Malachi may have been written after Nehemiah returned to Persia in 433 BC or during his second period as governor. Since the governor mentioned in 1:8 (see note there) was probably not Nehemiah, the first alternative may be more likely (c. 430). Malachi was most likely the last prophet of the OT era.

MALACHI 2:10-16, NIV

Next, read these six verses from chapter two of Malachi. Then, we’ll take a look at the accompanying notes and articles.

10 Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?

11 Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty.

13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.

16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

—Malachi 2:10-16, NIV

NOTES ON MALACHI 2:10-16

Now that we have context and read the passage, let’s take a look at the study notes. We’ve included nearly everything the NIV Study Bible Fully Revised offers on this section of Scripture. However, some of the notes refer you to read other notes in the study Bible. We didn’t include them here. But when you use this study Bible in the app, it will be incredibly simple to jump between the notes.

Malachi 2:10–16

Malachi rebukes the people—in a passage framed by references to being “unfaithful.” Two examples of their unfaithfulness are specifically mentioned: marrying pagan women (v. 11) and divorcing “the wife of your youth” (v. 14; see also v. 16); i.e., from within the covenant people.

Malachi 2:10 one Father.

See Isa 63:16. God’s oneness should be apparent in the covenant unity of his people. create us. As his special people (see Isa 43:1 and note). covenant of our ancestors. The covenant God had made with their ancestors at Mount Sinai. being unfaithful. The people could not even trust their own fellow Israelites or the national leaders— like the priests (v. 16).

Malachi 2:11 women who worship a foreign god.

Pagan women. Such marriages were strictly forbidden in the covenant law, not for ethnic or cultural reasons but because they would lead to apostasy (see Ex 34:15–16; Dt 7:2–5 and notes; Jos 23:12–13 and note on 23:12). Ezra and Nehemiah both wrestled with this problem (see note on v. 8). Cf. King Solomon in 1Ki 11:1–9.

Malachi 2:12

The alternative given in the NIV text note (particularly “gives testimony”) is supported, e.g., by the use of the same Hebrew verb in Ge 30:33; Dt 5:20; 1Sa 12:3; 2Sa 1:16; Isa 3:9; Jer 14:7. On this reading, the one to be cut off is the one who speaks in defense of the wrongdoer. tents of Jacob. A figurative expression for the community (Jer 30:18).

Malachi 2:13 weep and wail.

Because the Lord does not respond to their sacrifices with blessing, they add wailing to their prayers.

Malachi 2:14 witness… marriage covenant.

Marriage was a covenant (see Pr 2:17; Eze 16:8 and notes), and covenants were affirmed before witnesses (see notes on Dt 30:19; 1Sa 20:23; Isa 8:1–2).

Malachi 2:15 one God.

See Ex 20:3; Dt 4:35; 6:4 and notes. Godly offspring. People who reflect the attributes of their divine Father, such as faithfulness and loving care for covenant partners.

TWO ARTICLES ON MALACHI 2:10-16

Lastly, check out these two short articles included in the NIV Study Bible notes. We love the way this study Bible keeps you informed, but not overwhelmed with information.

Divorce in Malachi

The context of Malachi’s message regarding divorce is God’s charge that his people are fail­ing to accurately reflect his attributes in the world. The people should love him to show that he is loving (1:2–5). The people should honor him to communicate that he is honorable (1:6–2:9). They should pursue social justice, because he is a just God (2:17–3:5). They should give tithes and offerings to communicate that he is a giving God (3:6–12). And they should serve him in humble trust because he is trustworthy (3:13–15). In other words, their behavior should be demonstrat­ing truths about God.

In 2:10–16 Malachi’s emphasis is on unity. This emphasis is highlighted by the uncommon and repeated term “one Father/God” (2:10 [2x], 15 [2x]), which occurs only here in the entire OT. By using this unusual term, God is stressing to his people how important it is for them to be unified—to be one just as he is one. His people, however, are demonstrating just the opposite. Their disunity is most strikingly obvious in the relationship that should exemplify unity most clearly—marriage. Husbands are being unfaithful to their wives, the very ones they should be most careful to protect. Far from protecting her, by divorcing his wife (to marry another woman), the husband was doing violence to the one for whom he was relationally/covenant­ ally responsible; i.e., his wife (vv. 14–16).

The “godly offspring” God is said to desire (v. 15) are those who reflect his own attributes, giving evidence that they are his spiritual children. Divorce among his people did not reflect truth about God’s own unity and was therefore among those behaviors condemned by his prophet Malachi.”

Does God Hate Divorce?

“For the traditional interpretation of this verse as “I hate divorce, says the Lord . . .” see NIV text note. The Hebrew is difficult to translate, however, and many interpreters render it as in the NIV: “The man who hates and divorces his wife . . .” There is no pronoun “I” in the Hebrew and the verb “hates” is in the third person (“he hates”). In context, the one who hates is most likely the man divorcing his wife, not God. This fits well the next clause, which speaks of divorce as an act of violence against the one the husband should be protecting.

This interpretation does not in any way condone divorce or water down the statement. It still strongly condemns divorce as contrary to God’s will. The one who divorces his wife is abusing the one whom God has given him responsibility to protect.”

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