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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Malachi 4

Malachi 3:13-6

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Purifier(Malachi 3:1-15)The People Complain HarshlyWhen the Day of Judgment Comes, the True Worshipers Will be Spared(Malachi 3:13-3)God's Promise of MercyThe Triumph of the Upright on the Day of Yahweh
Malachi 3:13-15Malachi 3:13-15Malachi 3:13-15Malachi 3:13-15Malachi 3:13-15
The Book of RemembranceA Book of Remembrance
Malachi 3:16-18Malachi 3:16-18(vv. 16)Malachi 3:16-3Malachi 3:16-18Malachi 3:16-18
(vv. 17-18)
The Final AdmonitionThe Great Day of God The Day of the LORD's Coming3:19-21 [follows MT]
Malachi 4:1-3Malachi 4:1-6(vv. Malachi 4:1-3)Two AppendicesMalachi 4:1-3
Malachi 4:4(vv. Malachi 4:4-6)Malachi 4:4Malachi 4:4Appendices [follows MT]3:22
Malachi 4:5-6 Malachi 4:5-6Malachi 4:5-63:23-24

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Malachi 4:1-3 1”For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 4:1 The Septuagint and the Vulgate begin a new chapter here, but the Masoretic Text continues chapter 3 through the end of chapter 4.

“the day is coming” The term “the day” (BDB 398) becomes a technical term for the coming of YHWH. The Israelites thought it would be a day of blessing, but the prophets (esp. Amos and Joel) clearly prophesied a day of judgment beginning with the people of God. One can see from this verse how the Jews of Jesus' day expected the Messiah to come as one bringing judgment. Even John the Baptist misunderstood the nature of Jesus' first coming (cf. Matthew 11:2ff ).

“burning like a furnace” Fire is often a symbol of God and His purifying activities (cf. Malachi 3:2-3; Psalms 21:9; Psalms 50:3; Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 66:15-16; Daniel 7:0;9-10; Joel 2:30; Nahum 1:5-6; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Peter 3:7). See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

“will be chaff” This refers to (1) refuse from harvest time or (2) burning of the field in preparation for planting (cf. Matthew 3:12-14).

“so that it will leave them neither root or branch” This is a metaphor of complete destruction (cf. Amos 2:9; Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 3:14).

Malachi 4:2 “the sun of righteousness” The KJV and NKJV capitalize the term “Sun,” but this is exegetically impossible because it is a FEMININE NOUN in this context (it is usually MASCULINE). It is, however, a unique reference to the Messiah (a similar metaphor is in Isaiah 60:1-3, Isaiah 60:19-20. Also note Matthew 17:2; Revelation 22:5).

Although a Messianic understanding is traditional (even in the rabbis, cf. b.sanh. 118a; b. 'Eruv. 43b), in context it seems to be a metaphor inaugurating the new age of restoration (cf. Isaiah 30:23-26; Isaiah 60:10). This metaphor is striking and unique, which makes it difficult to interpret. What would Malachi have understood by this phrase? The symbol of the Zoroastrian high-good god was a winged sun disk. Possibly the prophet is borrowing the well known symbol of Persian religion to describe YHWH's new day of righteousness (i.e., Psalms 84:11).

“with healing in its wings” This metaphor is possibly used of (1) the relationship between healing and light or (2) a Persian symbol for deity used in Zoroastrianism. Healing was a sign of the New Age (cf. Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 42:7, Isaiah 42:16, Isaiah 42:18; Matthew 11:5; Matthew 12:22-25; Matthew 15:30-31; Matthew 21:14).

The healing referred to here is more of a spiritual restoration. Israel is sick in covenant rebellion (cf. Isaiah 1:5-6; Psalms 103:3). Forgiveness will result in health, peace, and joy. The new day was really what the old day should have been, was meant to be (cf. Deuteronomy 28:0).

“skip about like calves from the stall” This seems to be a metaphor of joy, freedom, and health (cf. Isaiah 35:6).

Malachi 4:3 “And you will tread down the wicked” This is a metaphor from the wine press, which is used for the righteous finally overcoming. Some see it as a reference to Joshua 10:24 and, therefore, to military victory. Notice God's victory is not immediate, but eschatological.

Verse 4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Malachi 4:4 4”Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.

Malachi 4:4-6 The order of these verses is slightly altered in the Septuagint (i.e., Malachi 4:5, Malachi 4:6, and 4). The order is also slightly altered in the Masoretic Text. This seems to be related to the rabbinical thought that the Bible should end with a Covenant name for God. They also did this to the books of Isaiah and Ecclesiastes.

Malachi 4:4 “Remember” This is a command (BDB 269, KB 269, Qal IMPERATIVE, this VERB is so common in Deuteronomy, 5:15; 7:18 [twice]; Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 8:18; Deuteronomy 9:7, Deuteronomy 9:27; Deuteronomy 15:15; Deuteronomy 16:3, Deuteronomy 16:12; Deuteronomy 24:9, Deuteronomy 24:18, Deuteronomy 24:22; Deuteronomy 25:17; Deuteronomy 32:7). Privilege brings responsibility! We need to hide God's word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him (cf. Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:11-20: Psalms 103:2).

“the statutes and ordinances” See Special Topic: Terms for God's Revelation.

“HoREB This (BDB 325) is another name for Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19-23). Some have speculated that Horeb (Hebrew word) is the mountain range and Sinai (non-Hebrew word) is the individual peak.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE LOCATION OF MT. SINAI

Verses 5-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Malachi 4:5-6 5”Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

Malachi 4:5 “I am going to send Elijah the prophet” The rabbis (i.e., b. Sanh 118a), the Septuagint, and some early Church fathers were expecting Elijah, the prophet, to return literally (cf. Ecclesiasticus 48:10ff). Elijah and Moses met with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matthew 17:4). However, the words of Jesus seem to relate this passage to John the Baptist (cf. Malachi 3:1; Matthew 11:7-14; Matthew 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17). John denies this title in John 1:19-23, but apparently he was denying that he was Elijah reincarnated.

“the great and terrible day of the LORD” This day is characterized in two ways:

1. “great,” BDB 152, these two descriptions are often used together (i.e., YHWH's acts of redemption, cf. Deuteronomy 10:21; Job 5:9; Job 9:10; Job 37:5; Psalms 71:19; Psalms 106:21)

2. “terrible,” BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal PARTICIPLE. Its basic meaning if “fear” or “awe.” Therefore, it can stand for

a. a day of judgment

b. a day of the awesome deeds of YHWH

1) used of YHWH Himself in Deuteronomy 10:21; 2 Samuel 7:23; Psalms 47:3; 68:36; Psalms 76:8; Isaiah 64:2. He is “great and awful” (cf. Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 10:17; Nehemiah 1:5; Nehemiah 4:8; Nehemiah 9:32; Daniel 9:4)

2) used of YHWH's name in Deuteronomy 28:58; Psalms 99:3; Psalms 111:9; Malachi 1:14

3) YHWH's coming day in Joel 2:11; Joel 3:4; and here

Malachi 4:6 “He will restore” This VERB (BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil PERFECT) is used often in Malachi (cf. Malachi 1:4; Malachi 2:6; Malachi 3:7[thrice],18; Malachi 4:6, see notes at Malachi 3:7). This is the regular Hebrew word for repentance (lit. “turn” or “turn back”). In this context it has a double focus:

1. return the post-exilic community to the faith of their fathers

2. return stability to the family structure of the faith community

“curse” The literal word is herem (BDB 356, cf. Leviticus 27:28, Leviticus 27:29; Deuteronomy 25:16-17; Joshua 6:17 and 1 Samuel 3:15ff). This is the term which is used of something being dedicated to God, and it becoming so holy that it must be completely destroyed.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the cultural setting of Malachi 3:14?

2. Explain “the book of remembrances.”

3. How is service related to our righteousness before God? (cf. Mal. 4:18)

4. Explain the two unique terms found in Malachi 4:2 and how they relate to the Messiah.

5. Is John the Baptist the predicted prophet Elijah?

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Malachi 4". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/malachi-4.html. 2021.