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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Malachi 4

Verses 1-3

The Coming Day of the Lord (4:1-3)

Malachi’s view of that day of direct intervention by God is further developed in the short paragraph which follows. It is characterized in terms of the heat of an oven which is capable of destroying "the arrogant and all evildoers" like stubble. Those who fear the name of the Lord, that is, who attend to his commands, will go forth "leaping like calves from the stall," and will tread down the wicked, evidently sharing in the consuming activity of God, since these latter will be left as "ashes under the soles of your feet."

Malachi does not have a fully developed sequence of events in mind for the end of time; rather he contemplates an imminent catastrophe for the wicked of his own time from which the conscientious worshipers of the Lord will be saved and in which they will have a part. The idea of the participation of the righteous in the judgment of the wicked appears in a variety of forms in the Old Testament, often (as in Amos 9:12 and Isaiah 11:13-14) involving only the repossession by Israel of territory conquered by her neighbors. Micah (4:13) sees his people as the divinely authorized threshing instrument which God will use against "many peoples." Malachi’s idea that righteous Jews will turn against their fellow Jews is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament.

Christians have come to see the participation of God’s elect in the fulfillment of his purposes through missionary activity and, with a more developed view of the end of the world, have come to think of the catastrophic separation of righteous from wicked as a phase of the Last Judgment. What is particularly relevant in all of these views, which need not be harmonized with each other, is the conception of divine disapproval upon evil, and the promise of God’s blessing upon those who show proper reverence to God.

Verses 4-6

Moses and Elijah (4:4-6)

The final verses of the Book of Malachi are probably a post-script by a pious scribe, seeking to provide a suitable conclusion for the Book of the Twelve (Minor) Prophets as well as for the Book of Malachi. Though the reference to Elijah is appropriately near the beginning of the New Testament in English Bibles, it is only at the end of the second major division of the Hebrew Bible, being followed by the whole collection of "the Writings."

The reader is reminded (Malachi 4:4) to keep the Law of Moses, commanded at Horeb. The use of the word "Horeb" and the characterization of Moses as "my servant" suggest that it is the Law as recorded in Deuteronomy which is in the mind of the scribe who made the addition (see Deuteronomy 1:6).

Another addition promises that God will send Elijah the prophet before the Day of the Lord. Elijah’s mission will be to heal the division between parents and children so that the land will be spared the curse of utter destruction. No reference is made to the cleansing of the Temple of Malachi 3:1-4 or to the ethical problems referred to in Malachi 3:5, but it seems that the scribe was nevertheless identifying the expected messenger with a returned Elijah. Elijah was chosen in this connection not because he was the earliest of the prophets (Nathan preceded him), or the greatest of them, but because Elijah’s unique disappearance from the earth (2 Kings 2:11-12) made it appear possible for him to return in connection with the day of divine intervention. It is significant that though the book closes on the terrifying note of divine judgment and destructive intervention, this threat is coupled with the promise that Elijah "will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers" in renewed harmony such as God always requires.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Malachi 4". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/malachi-4.html.