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Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 53
Malachi’s Eschatological Day of Yahweh: Its Dual
Roles of Cultic Restoration and Enactment of
Social Justice (Mal 3:1–5; 3:16-4:6)
The theme of the Day of Yahweh is regarded as a central feature of
the prophets’ message to their contemporaries. It is the most strik-
ing and prominent theme in the Book of the Twelve. While Isaiah
focuses on Zion, Jeremiah on the rhetoric of lament, Ezekiel on the
Glory of Yahweh, so are the Minor Prophets on the theme of the
Day of Yahweh. The Day of Yahweh as envisioned by Malachi is an
eschatological day of judgement with a future day of renewal and
restoration of the fortunes of those who fear the Lord. Malachi’s
vision for restoration includes a covenantal messenger, who will
cleanse Yahweh’s people and restore true worship and obedience to
the ethical standards of the law thus giving room for a community of
reverence who will enjoy righteousness and healing. Earlier Mala-
chi had castigated the priests and people for their attitude and
actions toward sacrifices and the altar. Now in the light of the
lawlessness alluded to in 2:17, the corruption of the priesthood in
3:3, the inadequacy of worship in 3:4 and the corruption of per-
sonal and civil morality in 3:5, readers are introduced to three
urgent issues: the need for messianic intervention, the need for the
day of judgement and the need for social justice. In the discussions
that follow, this article examines eschatological hope in the OT, the
eschatological peculiarity of the discourse of Malachi’s Day of Yah-
weh, the identity of Malachi’s eschatological covenant messenger,
the roles of the eschatological messenger: namely, cultic restoration
and Yahweh’s righting of past wrongs and the reversal of sinful
societal order in the overall context of the eschatological day of
The theme of the Day of Yahweh is regarded as a central feature of the proph-
ets’ message to their contemporaries. It is the most striking and prominent
theme in the Book of the Twelve. While Isaiah focuses on Zion, Jeremiah on
the rhetoric of lament, Ezekiel on the Glory of Yahweh, so are the Minor
Doctoral student at the Department of Old Testament Studies, Faculty of Theol-
ogy, University of Pretoria, with Prof. Dr. A. Groenewald as supervisor.
54 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
Prophets on the theme of the Day of Yahweh.
David L. Petersen contends that,
“the Day of Yahweh is a liminal moment when Yahweh will act as regent, usu-
ally in a military manner. The day is ambiguous; it can offer weal or woe,
depending on the historical circumstances. It is a day that, Israel could use to
interpret all of its significant historical moments.”
For Greg King, the Day of
Yahweh is both historical and eschatological. It is both present and a future
reality. The day will occur in history as well as in the final drama of history, the
realisation of God’s plan of redemption.
The Day of Yahweh as envisioned by
Malachi is an eschatological day of judgment with a future day of renewal and
restoration of the fortunes of those who fear the Lord. Malachi’s vision for
restoration includes a covenantal messenger, a renewed temple, a land of abun-
dance, and a community of reverence who will enjoy righteousness and heal-
ing. The construct phrase yôm yhwh (“the Day of Yahweh”) is located in the
sixth oracle of the last chapter of the book of Malachi (3:13–21,
In Mal 3:1, the announcement of the messenger is heard: hinnî shōlēªḥ
phānāy “Behold, I am sending my messenger,
and he will clear the way before me . . .” (
This announcement is within
the context of the day of the arrival of the messenger of the covenant. But it is
an unbearable one: ûmî mekhakēl ʼeth–yôm bô’ô “But who can withstand the
day of His coming?” (3:2). The question, “who can bear/endure/resist/ with-
stand the day?” reechoes Joel 2:11, kî–ghādhôl yôm–yhwh w
khîlennû “For the day of the L
is great and very terrible; and who can
abide it?” The question presumes, when the Day of the Lord is near. The
description carries the emblem of the traditional characteristics of the Day of
Yahweh of judgment and security. The prophet then describes what Yahweh
will do on arrival on that day:
Aaron Schart, “Reconstructing the Redaction History of the Twelve Prophets:
Problems and Models,” in Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve (ed. James D.
Nogalski and Marvin A. Sweeney, SBLSymS 15; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Litera-
ture, 2000), 34–48; Rolf Rendtorff, “How to Read the Book of the Twelve as a
Theological Unity,” in Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve (ed. James D.
Nogalski and Marvin A. Sweeney, SBLSymS 15; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Litera-
ture, 2000), 75–87; John Barton, “The Day of Yahweh in the Minor Prophets,” in
Biblical and Near Eastern Essays: Studies in Honour of Kevin J. Cathcart (ed. Car-
mel McCarthy and John F. Healey; JSOTSup 375; London: T. & T. Clark, 2004), 68–
79; James D. Nogalski, “The Day(s) of Y
in the Book of the Twelve,” in The-
matic Threads in the Book of the Twelve (ed. Paul L. Redditt and Aaron Schart; Ber-
lin: W. de Gruyter, 2003), 175–191; David L. Petersen, “A Book of the Twelve?” in
Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve (ed. James D. Nogalski and Marvin A.
Sweeney, SBLSymS 15; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000), 3–10.
Petersen, “A Book?” 9.
Greg King, “The Day of the Lord in Zephaniah,” BSac 152 (1995): 16–32.
All English translations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (
or otherwise stated.
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 55
And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify
the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they
may present to the L
offerings in righteousness. “Then the offer-
ing of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the L
as in the
days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for
judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and
against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and
against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow
and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear
Me, says the L
of hosts (3:3–5).
The Day of Yahweh is not only a day of judgment for covenant violators
but also the Day of hope (Mal 3:16–4:6). The assurance that a day is coming
when Yahweh will place all things under divine judgment, and in turn create an
entirely new sequence of events whereby truth, justice, equity and righteous-
ness will triumph is one that the book of Malachi holds in common with the
rest of the
. In the discussions that follow, this article examines as a back-
ground, eschatological hope in the
, the eschatological peculiarity of the dis-
course of Malachi’s Day of Yahweh, the identities of Malachi’s eschatological
figures as well as the dual roles of the eschatological messenger; namely, cultic
restoration and Yahweh’s righting of past wrongs and the reversal of sinful
societal order in the overall context of the eschatological day of Yahweh.
B ESCHATOLOGICAL HOPE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Prophetic literatures that were composed after the return from the Babylonian
exile have been the subject of lively scholarly debate in the last half century.
Much of this debate centred on the relationship between prophecy and
apocalypticism, or between prophetic and apocalyptic literature.
In this regard,
post–exilic prophecy was regarded as the grey area between prophecy and
apocalypticism, and eschatology was considered their point of contact.
attempt to create a distinction between prophetic eschatology and apocalyptic
eschatology, Paul D. Hanson writes:
Prophetic eschatology we define as a religious perspective which
focuses on the prophetic announcement to the nation of the divine
plans for Israel and the world which the prophet has witnessed
unfolding in the divine council and which he translates into the
terms of plain history, real politics, and human instrumentality; that
is, the prophet interprets for the king and people how the plans of
Michael U. Udoekpo, Re–Thinking the Day of Y
and the Restoration of For-
tunes in the Prophet Zephaniah: An Exegetical and Theological Study of 1:14–18;
3:14–20 (Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2010), 228.
Antonios Finitsis, Vision and Eschatology: A Socio–Historical Analysis of Zecha-
riah 1–6 (LSTS 79; New York: T & T Clark International, 2011), 5.
Finitsis, Vision and Eschatology, 6.
56 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
the divine council will be effected within the context of their
nation’s history and the history of the world.
Apocalyptic eschatology we define as a religious perspective
which focuses on the disclosure (usually esoteric in nature) to the
elect of the cosmic vision of Yahweh’s sovereignty – especially as it
relates to his acting to deliver his faithful – which disclosure the
visionaries have largely ceased to translate into the terms of plain
history, real politics, and human instrumentality due to a pessimistic
view of reality growing out of the bleak post–exilic conditions
within which those associated with the visionaries found them-
selves. These conditions seemed unsuitable to them as a context for
the envisioned restoration of Yahweh’s people.
What is clear from this distinction is that “both perspectives are
eschatological, in the sense that there is the expectation of a future in which
God will be revealed to the world and the faithful of God’s people will be
Bill T. Arnold puts it further,
The assumption in prophetic eschatology is that the evil in the world
lies internally among the people of God. . . . The main problems
addressed are idolatry and injustice, and on a broader scale the fail-
ure to do tôrāh
in the world. The solution is for God’s people to
repent and practice righteousness and justice (wherein the social eth-
ics in the Prophets). The assumption in apocalyptic thinking is that
evil in the world is external to the people of God. That is, the main
problem impeding God’s work in the world is the evil and wicked-
ness of empires and rulers and systems that control human history.
The main problems addressed are arrogance, pride, abuse of power,
and on a broader scale lawlessness and tyranny. . . . The emphasis in
this perspective falls on God overthrowing that wickedness in the
world so that God’s people can live faithfully in the world as his
people. Each of these perspectives arises from a particular historical
and social context.
Paul D. Hanson, The Dawn of Apocalyptic: The Historical and Sociological Roots
of Jewish Apocalyptic Eschatology (rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), 11–
Katrina Larkin, The Eschatology of Second Zechariah: A Study of the Formation
of a Mantological Wisdom Anthology (Kampen, Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing
House, 1994), 10–11.
Bill T. Arnold, “Old Testament Eschatology and the Rise of Apocalypticism,” in
The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (ed. Jerry L. Walls; New York: Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 2010), 23–39 (33).
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 57
The term Eschatology (eschatos logos) actually means “a doctrine of the
last things” or a distinct age beyond the present age.
It deals with expectations
of beliefs that are characteristic of a certain religion; namely the world or part
of it moves to a definite goal (telos); and that there is a new final order of
affairs beyond the present. It is simply the doctrine of consummation of the
world–process in a supreme crisis leading on into a permanent state.
ing to Sigmund Mowinckel, eschatology is a doctrine or a complex of ideas
about “the last things.” Every eschatology includes “in
some form or other a
dualistic conception of the course of history, and implies that the present state
of things and the present world order will suddenly come to an end and be
superseded by another of an essentially different kind.”
understood in this manner, with particular reference to the
, reveals that there
is little eschatology in the
. For if eschatology is a doctrine of the end of the
world and the history of humankind, there is no eschatology at all in the
Seen in this light, Roland E. Clements notes that a major aspect of
this conception of eschatology is that the coming consummation lies on the
other side of history. A characteristic element of eschatology in relation to the
hope is the idea of two ages, namely, the present age and the age to come.
This is not only developed in later apocalyptic writings, but is present in the
In his conception, Rainer Albertz explains that the apocalyptic revela-
tion of the imminent end of history is nothing other than an interpretation of the
exilic period. Of course, no one can prove that the apocalyptic conception of an
eschaton when all prior history would come to an end and an entirely new age
of salvation would dawn sprang directly from reflection on the exilic fate of
Israel. However, the many substantive and structural points of contact between
the understanding of the exile as a period of divine judgment, long–lasting but
limited by God’s faithfulness, and this new conception of history meant that the
latter could be supported, interpreted, and even calculated on the basis of the
Thus, it is no accident that this darkest period in the history of Israel
could not be integrated fully until there was a historical schema based on the
termination of a history gone massively awry. While the exile had forced Israel
Elmer A. Martens, “Eschatology,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets
(ed. Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville; Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter–Varsity
Press, 2012), 178–185 (178).
Geerhardus Vos, The Eschatology of the Old Testament (ed. James T. Dennison
Jr.; New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2001), 1.
Sigmund Mowinckel, He That Cometh (Oxford: Blackwell, 1956; repr.: Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 125.
Udoekpo, Re–Thinking the Day of Y
Roland E. Clements, Prophecy and Covenant (SBT 43; London: SCM, 1965),
Rainer Albertz, Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century
. (trans. David Green; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), 40.
58 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
to suffer an abrupt end to its political history, it nevertheless survived. It is
therefore probably no accident that in Israel the apocalyptic concept of the end
of world history and the beginning of a new age could come to appear so
Old Testament eschatological hope receives its clearest expression from
. onwards and most probably in the post–exilic period, but
its roots go deep into Israel’s covenant faith.
The presence of eschatology in
gradually became more prominent in the prophets and in later Jewish
apocalyptic texts, which began to appear already in the canon of the
Israelite eschatology is manifested in the expectation of a future eon radically
discontinuous with the present, in which the circumstances of history will be
transformed and the present cosmos redeemed by God.
Thus, central to this
understanding is the idea of the
radical wrongness of the present world and the conviction that radi-
cal changes, to make this right, will indeed occur “in that day,” that
is, at some time known to God. With this in mind, the people of God
are called upon to live faithfully to the covenant, hearing Yahweh’s
call to righteous behavior, resulting in an “eschatological ethic.”
According to Arnold, the conceptual foundations for Israel’s eschatol-
ogy, then, may be traceable along a historical continuum in the narration of the
redemptive history, beginning with the ancestral promises of Genesis (12:1–
which later become the “realised eschatology” for the Mosaic period
(Exod 2:24–25). While the Sinaitic covenant traditions themselves appear to
Albertz, Israel in Exile, 44.
Robin L. Routledge, Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach (Apollos:
Inter–Varsity Press, 2008), 273.
Arnold, “Old Testament Eschatology,” 23.
It is instructive to note that the temporal orientation of the Hebrew concept of time
is connected to spatial categories and that the past is “before” one (qedhem) and the
future is “behind” (‘aḥar). Thus the Israelites, with apparently all other people of the
ancient world, perceived themselves standing on a line going from east to west, from
past to future, moving along the line backward. See also Nicolas Wyatt, Space and
Time in the Religious Life of the Near East (BibSem 85; Sheffield: Sheffield Aca-
demic Press, 2001), 33–52.
Arnold, “Old Testament Eschatology,” 24–25.
Arnold, “Old Testament Eschatology,” 25. “The numerical extent of the progeny
as ‘a great nation’ (Gen 12:2), and the geographical extent of the Promised Land (Gen
15:18–21) could not come to reality in the lives of the ancestral generations. The
promises themselves are by definition projected into the future.” Thus Ernst Jenni
could express that the sequence of history is ascertained by the promise which Yah-
weh gives and fulfills from time to time. “Eschatology is the part of the history of
salvation which is still in prospect and which presses for realization.” Ernst Jenni,
“Eschatology of the Old Testament,” IDB 2: 126–133 (127).
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 59
make little direct contribution to the development of eschatology in Israel, their
insistence on future compliance to the covenant stipulations creates a distinctly
forward–looking trajectory. At the heart of prophetic eschatology is the
consideration given to the Day of Yahweh. The exact phrase yôm yhwh, “day of
the Lord,” occurs first in Amos 5:18.
While it tells little about the day itself,
the prophet (Amos) clearly refers to an idea well established by the eight cen-
.. In some passages, it suggests a day of battle, when Yahweh will
finally defeat all those powers that oppose him and will establish his reign.
Scholarly debate has centred on the punitive origins of the day of Yahweh, with
most gravitating to the theory that it was derived from the holy war tradition,
particularly as these traditions were carried through the royal cult.
Walter Eichrodt describes it as a day when “the nations as far as the
ends of the earth would be crushed before his onslaught, and with them their
gods would topple from their thrones, that Israel’s God might ascend the throne
of the universe alone.”
Mowinckel links the Day of the Lord with the annual
enthronement festival, which celebrated God’s renewed victory over the forces
of chaos, and gave assurance that he would not fail his people. He argues that
the theme was later taken up by Deutero–Isaiah after the fall of Jerusalem,
though by then its fulfilment focuses on the distant future.
Under the influ-
ence of this traditional element, the prophetic concept of the eschaton was also
to some extent systematised, that is to say, predictions connected with the
The expression yôm yhwh occurs in an equivalent form in Isa 2:12; Ezek 30:3;
Zech 14:1. It is referred to as the day of the Lord’s wrath (Ezek 7:19; Zeph 1:15, 18),
the Lord’s Day of vengeance (Isa 34:8; Jer 46:10 cf. Isa 61:2; 63:4), and of trampling
and tumult (Isa 22:5). Sometimes it is referred to simply as the day (Lam 1:21; Ezek
7:7) or that day (Isa 2:11; cf. 24:21; 27:1).
For example, Isa 13:4–5; 34:1–6; 63:1–6; Jer 46:10; Ezek 13:5; 30:3–4; Joel 2:11;
Obad 1; Zeph 1:16; Zech. 14:3. The people of Amos’s day clearly hoped and longed
for Yahweh’s day, in which Yahweh would punish Israel’s enemies and deliver them
from their troubles. But somehow, the prophet surprisingly and dramatically reversed
their popular ideology by turning the day into a judgment, not for Israel’s enemies,
but for Israel. See examples of dramatic reversal in Amos 3:1–2, 5:4–6, 9:7; as well
as Shalom M. Paul, Amos: A Commentary on the Book of Amos (Minneapolis: For-
tress Press, 1991), 182–184.
Gerhard von Rad, “The Origin of the Concept of Day of Yahweh,” JSS 4 (1959):
Frank M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in History of the Reli-
gion of Israel (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973), 111.
Walter Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (vol. 1; London: SCM, 1961),
Mowinckel, He That Cometh, 132–133.
60 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
expectation of the Day of Yahweh which began from different traditions were
to some extent blended.
While there is nothing intrinsically eschatological about the day of Yah-
weh, its use takes on a negative expectation, and when tied to the positive
expectations of the people rooted and grounded as they were in Sinaitic cove-
nant hopes and Davidic expectations, this prophetic preaching becomes a nega-
tive eschatology, as it were.
After the exile, the conceptual foundations at the
centre of the saving event of Israel, that is, the creatorship of Yahweh and God
of the fathers, Yahweh’s covenants with Israel at Sinai and Zion, and the one
alone who supports and upholds the Davidic King, coalesced in the post–exilic
prophets in a new era of eschatological development. Influential in these
developments are the ideologies prevalent during the exile, especially those
preserved in the writings of second Isaiah. Post–exilic prophets like Haggai and
his associates considered the leftover population to be made up of devoted
members of the restoration community.
In Hag 2:3, the prophet asks: “Who is
left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it
now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?” The acknowledge-
by the leftover population that the present temple is unsatisfactory
became the encouraging foundation for the earnest expectation and eschatologi-
cal realisation of the glory to come and of the promises of the covenant in
which he has an eye to the Messianic age (Hag 2:4–5).
In the prophetic books of Zechariah and Malachi, the writers’ uses of
ʼē rîth) are more eschatological in nature. For instance in the
book of Zechariah, “Yahweh will deal with a future remnant differently to the
way he dealt with Israel in former times. Cursing and judgment will give way
to blessing (8:11–13). Even the Philistines can join this remnant (9:7). The
remnant is that which survives the eschatological battle against the nations.”
In Malachi on the other hand, the remnant are not those who survived the exile,
but those who are committed and dedicated to Yahweh in the postexilic
community and they will thus survive the coming wrath (3:16–18). In this
regard, Yahweh is presented as one who is faithfully committed to those whose
hearts are directed toward the covenant of the fathers (4:6).
The restored community however faced poverty, poor harvests, internal
adversaries, corruption and idolatry, threat of foreign invasion, and despair. In
the light of such deprivation and hardship, these prophets (Mal 1:2–3; Isa
Gerhard von Rad, The Message of the Prophets (Bloomsbury: SMC Press, 1968),
David L. Petersen, “Eschatology OT,” ABD 2:575–579 (577).
Gerhard F. Hasel, “Remnant,” ISBE 4:131–138 (133).
William J. Dumbrell, The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus (Grand
Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 130.
Dumbrell, The Search, 130.
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 61
58:13–14; 63:7–9) evinced a renewed interest in the ancestral traditions, and
the covenants (Zech 9:11; Mal 2:10; 3:1). They explored the implications of
monotheism, which was basic for a new political period (Zech 4:10; Mal 1:11).
These prophets were concerned with the ethical demands of Israel’s relation-
ship with Yahweh (Zech 7:8; Mal 3:5), and also reflected an increased empha-
sis on the spirit of Yahweh (Hag 2:5; Zech 4:6, 6:8, 12:10). Their eschatologi-
cal vision thus started to take on a transformative and cosmic dimension, result-
ing in descriptions of this new eon that will transcend all current human experi-
The focus, then, of the next section, will be specifically on the
eschatological peculiarity of the discourse of Malachi
C ESCHATOLOGICAL PECULIARITY OF THE DISCOURSE OF
MALACHI’S DAY OF YAHWEH
Malachi gives less of a broad exposition of eschatological ideas than any other
prophet, perhaps because he uses the form of the polemic dialogue.
distinctiveness of the eschatological dialogue of Malachi consists first of all, in
the prevalence of the negative accent on the accusation for sin in contrast to the
encouraging message of the good things to come which appears respectively
compacted and reserved.
Malachi’s remarkable eschatological characteristics
as relatively established by the negative arrangement, includes: the promise of
universalism in which Yahweh’s name will be great among the Gentiles. The
key component of this will be that “a pure offering” will be brought from them
to Yahweh in the widest compass (1:11), the coming of Yahweh to his temple
(3:1), the judgment aspect of Yahweh’s advent namely; “day of wrath” (3:2;
4:1), the rising of the “sun of ts
” (4:2), and preceding the coming of
Yahweh is “behold, I send my messenger before me” (3:1) as well as the spe-
cific mission of Elijah which is
defined as a “turning of the heart of the fathers
to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (4:6).
The negative accusations of sin is graphically made clear by the remark
that the misdemeanour charged to the people’s account bears in its entirety a
ritual quality, although the socio–economic elements similar to those of the
older prophets are by no means totally absent. These remarkable and discourag-
ing elements include: the bringing of polluted offerings on the altar; of the
blind, lame, sick, torn animals to the sanctuary for sacrifice (1:7–8, 13); an atti-
tude of ritual disillusionment and a logical apathy underpinning the offering
they bring; the priests’ conspiracy with the ritual negligence – an infringement
of the covenant of Levi (2:8 cf. 2:1–3; 3:14); the failure to bring the required
tithes to the sanctuary (3:10); the marrying of the daughter of a strange god and
the unfaithfulness involved in this to the marital ideal in Israel (2:15). Mala-
Arnold, “Old Testament Eschatology,” 28–29.
Von Rad, Message, 225.
Vos, The Eschatology, 160.
Vos, The Eschatology, 160–161.
62 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
chi’s eschatological vision involved the expectation of purifying judgment for
God’s people. By his time, serious cultic and social problems were manifesting
within the post–exilic community (1:6–14; 2:8–17; 3:6–15; 4:6). Indecision
with respect to repentance would bring about divine judgment. Yahweh would
come as the sovereign Lord to enforce his covenant (3:1). He is to come
unexpectedly, and his day is to bring judgment upon the godless; but for those
who fear God, “the sun of salvation” will shine forth.
The idea that Yahweh
will send a messenger before his own final advent (Mal 3:1) is only found in
The attempt in the following sections focuses on the identity of the
eschatological figure as well as the dual roles of cultic restoration and Yah-
weh’s correcting of past wrongs and the reversal of sinful societal order in the
overall context of the eschatological day of Yahweh.
1 Malachi’s Eschatological Covenant Messenger
Malachi 3:1 is believed to be an enigmatic passage. The personality of the
different characters indicated in the passage continues to attract fascinating
questions for scholarly debates.
The ambiguities in this text have caused exe-
getes to interpret it in a variety of ways. The text refers to three figures: “my
messenger,” “the Lord,” and “the messenger of the covenant.” Are these three
really the same person or two or three different beings? With whom therefore is
each to be associated? While scholars have answered these questions in totally
different manners, there is wide agreement that these verses are a later addition
to the book and reveal nothing about the author’s intention.
From a redac-
tional perspective, scholars observe
that third person singular forms dominate in 3:1b–4 (he will come to
his temple v1; his coming, he appears, he is like fire v2; he will sit,
he will purify and refine v3) while 3:1a, 5 is characterized by first
person singular forms (my messenger v1; I shall come near, I shall
Vos, The Eschatology, 161–162.
Von Rad, Message, 225.
See for example, David M. Miller, “The Messenger, the Lord, and the Coming
Judgment in the Reception History of Malachi 3,” NTS 53/1 (2007): 1–16; Stephanus
(Fanie) D. Snyman, “Once Again: Investigating the Identity of the Three Figures
Mentioned in Malachi 3:1,” VetE 27/3 (2006): 1031–1044; Julia M. O’Brien, Nahum,
Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (AOTC; Nashville: Abingdon
Press, 2004), 305–306; Bruce V. Malchow, “The Messenger of the Covenant in Mala-
chi 3,” JBL 103 (1984): 252–255.
Snyman, “Once again,” 1032; David L. Petersen, Zechariah 9–14 and Malachi: A
Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995), 209–212; John M. P. Smith,
A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Malachi (ICC; Edinburgh: T &
T Clark, 1980), 63.
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 63
be v5), and thus conclude that 3:1b–4 represents a later hand at
It is believed that the messenger in Mal 3:1 is Elijah in Mal 3:23–24 [4:5–6
Thus the concluding sentences of the corpus of the prophetic book,
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and
dreadful day of the L
. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the chil-
dren, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the
earth with a curse” (Mal 3:23–24 [4:5–6
]) are an interpretation of the
announcement of a preparing messenger in Mal 3:1: “Behold, I will send my
messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.”
The coming of Elijah will not only be to still the anger of Yahweh but
also to assemble Israel’s tribes, in order that the duty of the servant of Yahweh
(Isa 49:6) is handovered to him.
Robert C. Dentan and Otto Eissfeldt are of
the opinion that there is another late attempt to identify the messenger in 1:1,
where the author of the book is
called “my messenger,” mal'ākhî. This how-
ever, does not make the original meaning of 3:1 clear.
John M. P. Smith and
Rex Mason believe that the messenger is an unspecified figure.
It is further
suggested that the angel of the Lord and Yahweh are interchangeable and thus,
the phrase “the angel of the Lord” 3:1 is a “euphemism for God to emphasize
the transcendence of Yahweh.”
The angel might be conceived according to
the old concept of “the angel of the Lord,” who is a manifestation of Yahweh,
and a somewhat independent, spiritual servant of God.
tions include Malachi himself,
and a future, greater prophet.
It is also
observed that mal'ākhî is an allusion to a prophetic envoy whose duty is that of
making ready the eschatological arrival of Yahweh. In this regard, hā'ādhôn is
Snyman, “Once again,” 1032; cf., Petersen, Zechariah 9–14, 209–212.
Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Malachi – God’s Unchanging Love (Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House, 1986), 80; Pieter A. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi
(NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 340.
Markus Öhler, “The Expectation of Elijah and the Presence of the Kingdom of
God,” JBL 118/3 (1999): 461–476 (461–62). In the
, the reading of the prophecy
of Malachi differs somewhat, saying that Elijah will not only bring the hearts of the
fathers to the sons but equally the hearts of the people to their neighbours.
Robert C. Dentan, “The Book of Malachi,” IB 6: 1117–1144 (1137); Otto Eiss-
feldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 441.
Smith, Malachi, 63; Rex Mason, The Books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
(CBC; New York: Cambridge University, 1977), 152.
Stephen L. White, “Angel of the Lord: Messenger of Euphemism?” TynBul 50/2
Dentan, “Malachi,” 1137.
Johannes Lindblom, Prophecy in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Blackwell, 1962), 405,
Mason, The Books, 152.
Mowinckel, He That Cometh, 298.
64 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
an indication of Yahweh visiting his temple while the malākh habhbh
(messenger of the covenant) is understood to be “a later addition to the text and
identified as a guardian angel.”
Eugene H. Merrill argued that because the
word malākh is used twice it must be a reference to one and the same person
whose task is that of preparing the Lord’s way.
This might quite be contrary
to the view that “my messenger” is a prophetic envoy while the other two
designations in the light of the “strong elements of parallelism between the two
lines” aim at the same character who perhaps might be a lesser divine being or
a prophetic character “endowed by the same sorts of powerful abilities that Eli-
jah received according to Malachi 3:23–24.”
What is remarkable and important here is that Petersen’s description
does not indicate that hā'ādhôn is “the Lord” pointing directly to Yahweh. Karl
W. Weyde believes that the allusion to hā'ādhôn “the Lord” is Yahweh. To
him, the messenger of the covenant is not different from “the angel of the
Lord” which is similar to what is found elsewhere in the
respect to the personality of “my messenger” Paul L. Redditt holds, “it is
impossible to determine whether the prophet had himself or an angel of the
Lord in mind.” In spite of an awareness by some that the clause of 3:1, “and the
Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” could refer to a
messenger, virtually all modern interpreters agree that the “Lord” is Yahweh.
One observation that this is correct is that apparently it could only be said of
Yahweh that the Temple was his (Zech 1:16). Again, the reference here to
seeking the Lord fits well with the context in 2:17, where Israel had asked
where God was. The Lord for whom they were searching will appear. He will
come for an eschatological judgment.
Notwithstanding, “messenger of the covenant” is believed to be the
same as “the Lord” but the personality of the messenger who is going to come
before the Lord is uncertain.
Joyce G. Baldwin, while identifying these differ-
ent figures notes that even though the personality of “my messenger” is undis-
closed, it is to be taken as a figure with a special mission that should be
Snyman, “Once again,” 1033.
Eugene H. Merrill, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: An Exegetical Commentary
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 429, 432.
Petersen, Zechariah 9–14, 210–212.
Karl W. Weyde, Prophecy and Teaching: Prophetic Authority, Form Problems,
and the Use of Traditions in the Book of Malachi (BZAW 288; Berlin: Walter de
Gruyden, 2000), 290.
Paul L. Redditt, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (NCBC; Grand Rapids: Eerd-
mans, 1995), 176.
Cf. Malachi 3:5; Malchow, “The Messenger,” 252ff.
Elizabeth Achtemeier, Nahum – Malachi (Atlanta: John Knox, 1986), 184.
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 65
differentiated from that of the messenger of the covenant.
that if vv. l–4 are an addition to the text, whom then did the interpolator con-
sider “the messenger of the covenant” to be? Apart from those who identify this
figure with God, there are those who connect this “messenger of the covenant”
with the same type of being as the messenger at the beginning of the verse.
Thus, some relate the figure in v. lb to an angel or specifically to a guardian
angel or the angel of the Lord.
“The messenger of the covenant could also be
a prophetic envoy.” However, the terms “messenger” and “covenant” can more
easily be identified with a priestly figure in this context.
These terms are used
with that kind of association in the book of Malachi, and the interpolator may
well have been influenced by the book to continue that same line of thought.
Some interpreters have decided to go for a messianic–Christological
interpretation, identifying two different personalities.
(mal'ākhî) then is associated with the messenger of the covenant: a human
being linked with Elijah the prophet.
There is therefore a logical link between
hā'ādhôn as Yahweh and the “messenger of the covenant” with the exception
that the “messenger of the covenant” is “to be identified with the pre–incarnate
in this situation.
According to Stuart, this verse is “unmistakably
messianic doctrine . . . It describes God’s angel who represents God among the
people and goes ahead as they leave Sinai for the promised Land, to prepare
their way so that they will have success in conquering the promised land.”
light of this basic perspective Stuart concludes:
Malachi 3:1 and 3:23–24 [4:5–6] together constitute one of Mala-
chi’s special contributions to prophecy. They are the most detailed
Old Testament contexts indicating that the coming of the Messiah
would be preceded by a precursor who would announce the need to
prepare for his coming. In this regard Malachi is even more explicit
Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (TOTC; Downers Grove, Ill.:
Inter–Varsity Press, 1972), 242–243.
Malchow, “The Messenger,” 252.
Weyde, Prophecy and Teaching, 289–290. It is also believed and argued that the
messenger could have been a priestly envoy in the light of overwhelming criticisms
and curses the prophet placed on the priestly class. See Malchow, “The Messenger,”
Kaiser Jr., Malachi, 80; Douglas Stuart, “Malachi,” in The Minor Prophets: An
Exegetical and Expository Commentary (vol. 3; ed. Thomas E. McComiskey; Grand
Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 1245–1396 (1350).
Beth Glazier–McDonald, Malachi the Divine Messenger (SBLDS 98; Atlanta:
Scholars Press, 1987), 130–133.
The messenger of the covenant is “God’s own self–revelation, the pre–incarnate
Christ of the numerous
Christophanies.” Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “The Promise of the
Arrival of Elijah in Malachi and the Gospel,” GTJ 3/2 (1982): 221–233 (225).
Kaiser Jr., Malachi, 81–82.
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1350.
66 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
than the more famous verses from Isaiah 40:3–5 . . . that speaks of
the “voice” that announces the messianic advent.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that several scholarly positions have
been noted with respect to the identity and or identities of Malachi’s
eschatological figures. There are those who hold that mal'ākhî (“my messen-
ger”) is the prophet himself (Malachi), an unidentified prophet or a prophetic
harbinger, with the malākh habhbh
rîth either as an angel, imprecise
eschatological figure or a priestly envoy and hā'ādhôn is God or Yahweh. On
the other hand, some scholars have chosen not to identify the messenger, while
others have decided to go for a messianic–Christological interpretation. In this
paper, our conclusion is in line with that of Snyman,
The three figures mentioned are references to two persons, the one
human and the other divine . . . A later redactor saw the prophecies
of this prophet as the preparation for the coming of Yahweh him-
2 The Messenger’s Dual Roles of Cultic Restoration and Enactment of
Malachi’s fourth and sixth disputations introduce a new topic namely, the com-
ing of the divine messenger to cleanse Yahweh’s people and restore true wor-
ship and obedience to the ethical standards of the law. Earlier Malachi had
castigated the priests and people for their attitude and actions toward sacrifices
and the altar. Now in the light of the lawlessness alluded to in 2:17, the corrup-
tion of the priesthood in 3:3, the inadequacy of worship in 3:4 and the corrup-
tion of personal and civil morality in 3:5, readers are introduced to three urgent
issues: the need for messianic intervention, the need for the day of judgement
and the need for social justice. In the discussions that follow, this section of the
article examines the reformation of the priesthood and restoration of cultic wor-
ship and Yahweh’s correcting past wrongs and the reversal of sinful societal
2a Reformation of the Priesthood and Restoration of Acceptable Wor-
ship (Mal 3:1–4)
Malachi 1:6–2:9 contains the longest disputation directed towards the priests.
These verses are about one third of Malachi’s oracles.
These disputes are
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1352.
Snyman, “Once again,” 1043.
Eileen M. Schuller, “The Book of Malachi,” NIB 6:843–877 (858); Andrew E.
Hill, Malachi: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB; New
York: Doubleday, 1998), 173; Sean P. Kealy, An Interpretation of the Twelve Minor
Prophets of the Hebrew Bible: The Emergence of Eschatology as a Theological
Theme (Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2009), 233; James D. Nogalski,
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 67
composed of two distinct speech–acts with Yahweh as the subject of the first
(1:6–14) and the Levitical priesthood as subject of the second (2:1–9).
Although Malachi reflects the social and religious struggles of the 5th century,
however, his primary concern is the priesthood and its cultic activities. In these
verses one sees a blunt critique of two sins of the priests: the priests of Yehud
are accused of disrespecting, dishonouring, despising, and defiling Yahweh –
they question his accusations as if he either lied or was ignorant. But the princi-
pal way they despise and defile Yahweh day after day is through deficient and
unacceptable offerings (1:6–2:3). They are also accused of causing many to fal-
ter by their teaching (2:8).
The Levitical priests had failed in discharging the duties of their sacred
trust – teaching Israel the laws of Yahweh (cf. Deut 33:10) and by implication,
the people of Yahweh were led astray for lack of the knowledge of God (cf.
While Mal 1:6–9, 12; 2:1–3 clearly addresses the priests who were
responsible for accepting the animals brought to them for sacrifice, the people
were also culpable by choosing second–class animals and presenting them at
at a time when worship is conceived to take place among the na-
tions where Yahweh’s name receives proper
respect (1:11–12). This failure
causes Yahweh to threaten to do away with temple sacrifices altogether (1:10).
The people bring inferior sacrifices which they would not dare present to their
Persian governor (1:8).
Even though Yahweh’s people have survived the ordeals of national
defeat and disappointment through his sovereignty, Malachi asserts that they
cannot carry on properly without the reformation, and or transformation of their
leaders. As Zechariah exposes worthless shepherds (Zech 10:2–3; 11:15–17),
so Malachi lambasts corrupt priests. Employing direct speech, Malachi levels
harsh indictments against the priests who engage in practices that impugn the
integrity of Yahweh and set the whole community in severe danger.
course unit (Mal 3:1–4) focuses on their cleansing and restoration of acceptable
worship. The announcement of the coming of Yahweh in 3:5 which answers
The Book of the Twelve: Micah–Malachi (Macon, Ga.: Smyth & Helwys Publishing,
Inc., 2011), 1003; Mark J. Boda, “Perspectives on Priests in Haggai–Malachi,” in
Prayer and Poetry in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature: Essays in honor of
Eileen Schuller on the occasion of her 65
birthday (STDJ 98; ed. Jeremy Penner,
Ken M. Penner, and Cecilia Wassen; Brill: Leiden, 2012), 13–33 (15).
Hill, Malachi, 172.
Lena–Sofia Tiemeyer, Priestly Rites and Prophetic Rage: Post–Exilic Prophetic
Critique of the Priesthood (FAT 2/19; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 18.
Hill, Malachi, 173.
Verhoef, Haggai and Malachi, 214.
Nogalski, Micah–Malachi, 1003.
Louis Stulman and Hyun C. P. Kim, You are My People: An Introduction to the
Prophetic Literature (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), 241.
68 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
the frustrations expressed in 2:17 is preceded by an announcement that Yahweh
will send his messenger 3:1 whose duties will be that of the restoration of cultic
worship and judgement of evildoers.
The focal point in the fourth oracle,
2:17–3:5 is the purification of the priests, who are described as “sons of Levi”
(3:3–4). They are considered as impure, probably because of sin, or because of
contact with impurity. Again the authors shall briefly examine the medium,
method, and motive of their purification exercise.
As 3:1 stands, malʼākhî (“my messenger”) is considered to be the agent
who instigates and carries out the purification. This messenger is described
from Yahweh’s point of view as “one whom Yahweh is ‘sending,’ identified as
malʼākhî (‘my messenger’), and from the point of view of the people as
hāʼādhôn (‘the Lord’), yābhôʼ ʼel–hêkhālô (‘the one who is coming to his tem-
ple’) as well as ûmalʼakh habhbh
rîth (‘the messenger of the covenant’).”
This promised messenger of restoration of positive events is described by two
clauses as someone whom the audience, including the priests, has asked for:
hāʼādhôn ʼăsher–ʼaththem m
bhaqshîm (“the Lord whom you are seeking”)
and ûmalʼakh habhbh
rîth ʼăsher–ʼaththem ḥăphētsîm (“the messenger of the
covenant whom you seek”). This indeed, within the prophetic corpus, is no
doubt a messianic concept.
The expression ûphinnā
phānāy (“and he will clear the way
before me”) recalls the great roads in Babylon which were levelled and adorned
from the triumphal entry of kings and gods. Unlike these pagan gods and kings,
whose glory dwells in their images, Yahweh shows his splendour in that he res-
cues his people. The expression also recalls the celebratory worship proces-
sions in Jerusalem.
The characteristic feature of “the day of the Lord” (yôm
yhwh) in the
is indicated by the expression: ûphithʼō yābhôʼ ʼel–hêkhālô
hāʼādhôn (“the Lord will suddenly come to his temple”). As the first of the Day
of Yahweh’s passage in Malachi (the second being in the sixth oracle in 3:19
[4:1]), the prophet assigned various elements about Yahweh’s decisive
intervention in history: the swiftness and suddenness of the arrival
of the Day,
its profound bleakness for Yahweh’s enemies, Yahweh’s flawless victory over
his foes (including Israel if their sins so warrant), and his judgement, resulting
in the righting of past wrongs and the reversal of sinful societal order.
In 3:2, the prophet introduces two rhetorical questions about the Day of
Yahweh: ûmî m
khalkēl ʼeth–yôm bôʼô (“who will survive the day of his com-
Julia M. O’Brien, Priest and Levite in Malachi (SBLDS 121; Atlanta: Scholars,
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1350; Tiemeyer, Priestly Rites, 257.
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1350.
Cf. Ps 84:6; James N. Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary of Malachi (Dallas: Sum-
mer Institute of Linguistics Inc., 1998), 134.
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1347; Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary, 135.
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 69
ing”) ûmî hāʽōmēdh b
hērāʼôthô (“and who can stand his appearance”) and a
description of his character: kî–hûʼ k
tsārēph (“he is like refiner’s fire”)
sîm (“like a fuller’s soap”). The two questions
which are considered to be synonymous present the imagery of one who does
not fall in battle but rather who holds his own in a courtroom and thus those
who can stand are those who have faithfully kept Yahweh’s covenant in con-
trast to those who are no longer under its protection. The two similes: ʼēsh
(fire) and bōrîth (soap) characterise Yahweh’s role on his day and indicate that
he will make his covenant people morally better.
As the agent of the covenant, the malʼākhî of 3:1, will not only punish
covenant violators (act as judge) but will also purify the priests so as to restore
cultic worship to its former purity. In 3:3 the actual method of the purification
is then described. The following verbs are used: The primary sense of tsāraph
(“to smelt”), a secondary sense (“to refine”); of ṭāhēr (“to cleanse, purify” in
physical manner) and zāqqaq (“to strain out, filter”). In the piʿel stem these
denote the smelting of metals, for the impurity remains in the crucible, while
the refined metal flows away.
This verse suggests the skill and attentiveness
of the divine artisan seated at his work. Here Yahweh is depicted as a refiner
who sits over a receptacle containing silver ore until all components or sub-
stances are liquidated, leaving only the silver. As a silversmith purifies, Yah-
weh will purify and refine the sons of Levi (b
nê–lēwî) that is the priests like
gold and silver. To explain the priority of silver over gold Smith notes:
In Egypt before the establishment of the New Kingdom in the six-
., silver was more highly prized than gold. But at
the time of Malachi, gold was surely more valuable than silver . . .
silver was still mentioned first because the process of refining silver
is more delicate and anxious than the process of refining gold. . . .
When the silver becomes molten it gives off some twenty times its
own volume of oxygen with a noticeable hissing and bubbling. This
phenomenon is known as “spitting.” . . . Unless the molten silver is
treated with carbon . . . the silver re–absorbs oxygen from the air
and loses its sheen and purity.
If there will be purification of Yahweh’s people at all, it must start with
the temple and priesthood, those responsible for the religious decline of the
people. Their need for purification was made clear in 2:3, where Yahweh
threatened to “spread dung of their faces.”
The purification process will begin
with the priests (b
nê–lēwî) because they serve to mediate the relationship
Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary, 140.
Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary, 140–141.
Ralph L. Smith, Micah–Malachi (WBC 32; Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1984), 329.
E. Ray Clendenen, “Malachi,” in Haggai, Malachi (NAC 21A; ed. Richard A.
Taylor and E. Ray Clendenen; Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman and Holman Publishers,
2004), 203–464 (389).
70 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
between Yahweh and the other Israelites. The whole people will, however be
later included, as made explicit in 3:4. The essence of this purification exercise
is to enable the priests to bring pure offerings again to
(laʼdhōnāy) maghghîshê minhā
3:2b) with the result that the
Judahites offerings would please Yahweh anew (w
wîrûshālāim 3:4). The phrase minhā
the sacrifice will be in accordance with the requirements of the law and by it,
the very presentation of right offering, the action is emphasised.
people will continuously offer sacrifices in a way described.
The acceptable offering in the restored cult is called minḥath y
wîrûshālāim (“the offering of Judah and Jerusalem”). Jerusalem here refers to
the capital of the nation, Judah, thus the whole nation is referred to in 3:4.
The announced restoration of the cult implies that the presentation of offerings
will be as in “the days of old” (kîmê ʽôlām) and in “former years” (shānîm
qadhmōniyyôth). Although kîmê ʽôlām is not definite, it most probably refers
here to the Mosaic era, which was characterised by Israel’s complete reliance
upon Yahweh, perhaps the Davidic era, and the early year of Solomon’s reign
are included also.
The purification will enable the priesthood as a whole to
function anew and the future sacrifices of Judah will be pleasing to Yahweh, as
they were of old.
2b Enactment of Justice in the Light of Lawlessness and Corruption of
Personal and Civil Morality (Mal 3:5; 3:16–4:6)
The prophets have long been understood as champions of social justice. In both
the Former Prophets (Historical) and Prophetic books, prophets demonstrate
broad social concern, which is rooted in the person of God, who is committed
to humanity and deeply moved by injustice and the suffering that it causes.
While they seldom accuse Israel of breaking specific laws, rather, they “appeal
to known norms of humane conduct of ‘justice and righteousness’ norms which
are exemplified in the ‘apodictic law,’ but cannot be limited by it.”
The right sacrifice reminds one of the sacrifices in Ps 51:19 that conform to the
norm of what sacrifices should be. Objects which conform to a certain type are called
tsdq: just balances, just weights, just measures are objects in conformity with what
they ought to be (Lev 19:36; Ezek 45:10). Sacrifices of righteousness or sacrifices
offered according to the accustomed rites. See Smith, Malachi, 329.
Weyde, Prophecy and Teaching, 300.
Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary, 144.
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1355; Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary, 145.
M. Daniel Carroll R., “Ethics,” Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets (ed.
Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville; Downers Grove: Inter–Varsity Press, 2012),
Walter J. Houston, Contending for Justice: Ideologies and Theologies of Social
Justice in the Old Testament (London: T&T Clark, 2006), 70–71.
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 71
E. Fretheim says: “In promoting social justice, the prophets were religious con-
servatives. They built on the ancient traditions of Israel and the central prom-
ises of God to call Israel to attend to issues of justice on behalf of the
The postexilic community was in a difficult and disappointing
situation. In their varied circumstances their religious life was very
and their morality had dwindled as they asked why there was no divine judge-
ment on wrong doing. “Their problem was indeed the problem of every
monotheistic religion: the origin of evil.”
Here, the theodicy problem can be
discerned: especially Exod 34:6–7, expresses questions about justice and
vengeance, and about grace and remuneration from Yahweh's perspective.
In Mal 2:17, the prophet accuses the nation of two sins: practicing evil
as if it were acceptable and practicing injustice as if Yahweh would never inter-
vene in their affairs.
The expression hôghaʽtem the hip‘il form of the verb
yāghaʽ (“to weary, wear out, and tire out”)
generally means to tire from
physical exertion as a result of prolong labour, travel, or other activity. It can as
well refer to emotional disturbance or exhaustion from persistent stresses, sor-
row, and trials of life. It is used figurative of God and implies a prolonged and
often unpleasant activity that is soon to end.
These complaints grow out of an
inner societal division. While the act of unfaithfulness that was rampant in
Judah was a case of injustice, Judah could not recognise its own corruption but
saw its present socio–economic crises as signs of Yahweh’s unfairness and
unfaithfulness to them. They expected Yahweh’s blessings and abundance but
they were reaping divine afflictions and scarcity as an alternative.
The expression kol–ʽōśē
rāʽ ṭôbh b
ʽênê yhwh ûbhāhem hûʼ ḥāphēts
(“Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the L
, and He delights in
them” 2:17) is clearly that of frustration and probably also of resignation. To
them, the level of sin, crime, and corruption was such that it was as if God were
Terence E. Fretheim, “The Prophets and Social Justice: A Conservative Agenda,”
WW 28/2 (2008): 159–168 (159).
Marjo C. A. Korpel, “Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period,” in The Old
Testament in Its World (ed. Robert P. Gordon and Johannes C. de Moor; OtSt 52; Lei-
den: Brill, 2005), 135–157 (138).
John Barton, “The Canonical Meaning of the Book of the Twelve,” in After the
Exile: Essays in Honour of Rex Mason (ed. John Barton and David J. Reimer; Macon:
Mercer University Press, 1996), 59–73 (71); Raymond C. V. Leeuwen, “Scribal Wis-
dom and Theodicy in the Book of the Twelve,” in Search of Wisdom: Essays in
Memory of John G. Gammie (ed. Leo G. Perdue, Bernard Scott and William Wise-
man; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993), 31–49; James L. Crenshaw, “Theod-
icy in the Book of the Twelve,” in Thematic Threads in the Book of the Twelve (ed.
Paul L. Redditt and Aaron Schart; Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 2003), 175–191.
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1346
Pohlig, An Exegetical, 129; Clendenen, “Malachi,” 371–72.
72 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
On the one hand there are those who practice evil, and on the
other, there are the righteous. The latter are angry by the fact that Yahweh
apparently allows the wicked to get away with injustice. This indeed was a
radical affront to Yahweh and reflects clearly the crisis which the community
The first expression, kol–ʽōśē
rāʽ ṭôbh b
ʽênê yhwh ûbhāhem hûʼ
ḥāphēts (“Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the L
, and He
delights in them”) is more a venting of emotion. The second, ʼô ʼayyē
hammishpāṭ (“or where is the God of justice?”) introduced by the rare clausal
coordinating conjunction ʼô and the adverbial interrogative ʼayyē
is more a call
for explanation, which, of course, the rest of the oracle will provide. Yahweh
does not let the challenge to his justice go unanswered. The God of Justice
qārabhtî ʼălêkhem lammishpāth (“surely, I will draw near to you for
While Yahweh is pictured as a prosecutor in 2:17, he is described as
both a witness and judge in 3:5. Malachi 3:5 rounds out the disputation/oracle
by enumerating some of the kinds of practices that caused people to say: kol–
rāʽ ṭôbh b
ʽênê yhwh ûbhāhem hûʼ ḥāphēts (“Everyone who does evil is
good in the sight of the L
, and He delights in them”) or ask: ʼayyē
hammishpāṭ (“where if the God of justice?”). The drawing near of Yahweh for
judgement is expressed by the verb qārabh (“to draw near, come, appear, and
The verb is used in a forensic sense as often in Isaiah, but
always others are called to come before God (Isa 34:1; 41:1, 5; 48:16; 57:3). It
is only here that
God is referred to as the one who comes.
The phrase: ēdh
mahēr (“swift witness”) indicates that when the time comes for Yahweh to
judge, he will do so quickly, without hesitation in passing sentence on the
evildoers and executing the sentence.
In this juridical function of the Day of Yahweh, several violations of the
Mosaic covenants are emphasised. They are mainly infractions of God’s cove-
nant with Israel or simply the Mosaic Law. These infractions are all expressed
in the participle, thereby denoting habitual actions.
The first enumeration of
law breakers is the khashsh
phîm (“sorcery” or “witchcraft”).
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1348.
Finitsis, Vision and Eschatology, 29.
Clendenen, “Malachi,” 392; Stuart, “Malachi,” 1356.
Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary, 149.
Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary, 148.
This is an attempt to control the physical and the spiritual world through magical
means such as incantations, charms, and rituals. The practice was an abomination to
God (Deut 18:19–22), borrowed from pagan religion (2 Kgs 9:22) and widely prac-
ticed in Israel (in 2 Chr 33:6 they are lumped together with those who sacrificed their
children in the fire, who practice divination, gave oracles, interpreted omens, cast
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 73
expression kāshaph is translated by many as a noun: “sorcerer” (
). It is also translated as “to practice sorcery,”
practice witchcraft” (
). The fact that sorcery was going on in Malachi’s day
reveals the severe level of disregard for the Mosaic Law and covenant in
What may be especially in view in the context of Malachi was proba-
bly the use of sorcery to harm people (cf. Ezek 13:18–20).
Another example of the violation of law is those who commit adultery
Adultery in the
and in ancient Israel is defined as
sexual intercourse between a married or betrothed woman and any
man other than her husband. The marital status of the woman’s part-
ner is inconsequential since only the married or betrothed woman is
bound to fidelity. The infidelity of a married man is not punishable
by law but is criticized.
Adultery appears to have been regular, if one takes seriously the many
divorces in Malachi which the Jewish husbands committed against their wives.
Adulterers were violators of the Mosaic covenant (Exod 20:14; Deut 5:18) and
were thus certainly illustrations of moral decadence that set aside the covenant
and called for divine punishment. Both sorcery and adultery were regular in
pagan religious practices. Isaiah calls idolaters “children of the sorceress” (b
) and “offspring of the adulterer” (m
nāʼēph) (Isa 57:3).
Again, on Malachi’s list of law breakers are those who swear dishon-
estly by Yahweh’s name (ûbhannishbāʽîm lashshāqer) namely perjurers, those
who swear to a lie (sheqer).
In Zachariah, there is the prediction of judge-
ment for the perjurers: God
sends a curse to rectify the situation (Zech 5:4) and
in Malachi, God’s theophany is imminent. This crime is followed by “those
who defraud labourers of their wages” (ûbh
khar–śākhîr), “those who
oppress the widows and fatherless” (ʼalmānā
yāthôm) and “those who mis-
spells, were mediums or spiritists, or who consulted the dead; see also Jer 27:9).
These practices deserved execution (Exod 22:17–18). See Clendenen, “Malachi,” 393.
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1357.
Clendenen, “Malachi,” 393.
The seriousness of the sin of adultery is especially pronounced in Job. Here, it is
described as “indecent and disgusting sexual conduct and a criminal offence.” It is
also called “a destructive, hellish fire consuming everything I have” (Job 31:11–12).
Cf. Mal 2:14–15; and Prov 5:15–20; Clendenen, “Malachi,” 392.
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1358.
Stuart, “Malachi,” 1358. Stuart observes that swearing falsely is considered to be a
specialised, elevated form of lying, done in a context designed to avoid lying. Yah-
weh’s name was legal when invoked in oaths taking (Lev 19:12; Deut 6:13; 10:20),
but swearing falsely, perjury, was a serious crime (Lev 19:12). Jeremiah calls it an
abomination (Jer 7:9–12). Stuart, “Malachi,” 1358.
74 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
treat aliens” (ûmaththê–ghēr). It was recognised, not only in Israel, but also in
the rest of the ancient Near East, that widows and orphans needed divine and
governmental protection. Thus to mistreat widows and orphans was to show
gross contempt for Yahweh’s will.
Like orphans and widows, aliens are
listed as examples of dependent people who need the justice of others.
Exploitation of aliens was clearly an act of covenant violation.
As a sum-
mary statement, the final clause, w
rēʼûnî (“those who do not fear me –
Yahweh”) may be taken to encompass all the various covenant violations that
the Israelites of Malachi’s day are guilty of. “This is so, because the fear of
Yahweh denotes reverence for him which obligates one to follow his covenant
and adopts Yahweh’s concern as his own, including Yahweh’s social concerns,
which are in focus in this verse.”
The concern for the less fortunate ones in
Malachi, stresses the significance that the prophet assigned to social justice.
The Day of Yahweh is not only a day of judgment for covenant violators
but also the Day of hope.
In Mal 3:16–17 God promises to write down the
list of those who fear him (sēpher zikhkhārôn), who will be his special posses-
sion or property (s
) on the Day the Lord (layyôm ʼăsher ʼănî `ōśē
On that day when I act, says Yahweh Saboath, they will be my most
prized possessions, and I shall spare them in the way a man spares
his son who serve him. Then once again you will see the difference
between the upright person and the wicked one who serves God and
the one who does not serve him.
Though Malachi’s audience doubts God’s justice, on that day they will
clearly acknowledge the distinction that exists between the righteous person
and the unrighteous one. In Mal 3:19 (
), 4:1 (English) the Day of the Lord is
described as burning furnace, emphasising the burning power of God’s anger
and evil doers would be completely destroyed. Those who fear the Lord will be
rewarded on this Day. The sun of righteousness will shine upon them with
healing (shemesh ts
hā ) and they will go about
with joy leaping like calves from a stall (ûphishtem k
ʽeghlē marbēq) (3:20
[4:2]). They would on this Day trample on the wicked (w
who becomes nothing but ashes on the feet of the righteous (Kî–yihyû ʼēpher
taḥath kaphphôth raghlêkhem) (3:21 [4:3]).
The final verses of this prophetic literature are also quite remarkable:
See Exod 22:22–24; Zech 7:10; Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary, 149.
Exod 20:21; Deut 10:18–19; Glazier–McDonald, Malachi, 167–68.
Pohlig, An Exegetical Summary, 149.
John Proctor, “Fire in God’s House: Influence of Malachi 3 in the
[I Cor. 3:1; I
Peter 1:6–7],” JETS 36 (1993): 9–14.
Udoekpo, Re–Thinking the Day of Y
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 75
Remember the Law of Moses my Servant to whom at Horeb I pre-
scribe decrees and rulings for all Israel. Look I shall send you the
prophet Elijah before the great and awesome Day of Yahweh come.
He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their par-
ents, to forestall my putting the country under the curse of destruc-
The section of the book, Mal 3:22–24
is specially posi-
tioned in the
(4:4−6) does not only close the book
of Malachi, but also the entirety of the nebi’im (Prophets), as well as the second
portion of the
. Thus, these verses have been understood as a thoughtfully,
well designed and systematised conclusion, not just to the book Malachi, but to
the entire prophetic institution within the
, moving beyond Joshua to Mala-
Some scholars however, consider this concluding section of the book as
the ending to a prophetic collection consisting of the books of Haggai, Zecha-
riah and Malachi
the conclusion of the Book of the Twelve,
or simply a
conclusion to the Law and the Prophets.
This section certainly constitutes a kind of appendix to the book of
Malachi, which was very significant for subsequent interpretation.
appendix served to equate the hearers of the oracles of Malachi – along with
Udoekpo, Re–Thinking the Day of Y
It is observed that “Hebrew editions of the Minor Prophets are found in Qumran
and Wadi Murabba‘at, in Greek in Haḥal Ḥaver. . . All the twelve books are repre-
sented in the Qumran fragments (4QMinor Prophets
=4Q76–82), and most of the
editions have the Masoretic order.” Russell E. Fuller, “The Twelve” in Qumran Cave
4:X. The Prophets (DJD 15; ed. Eugene Ulrich, et al.; Oxford: Claredon, 1997), 221–
318 cited in Maarten J. J. Menken and Steve Moyise, The Minor Prophets in the New
Testament (LNTS 377; New York: T&T Clark, 2009), 7–8.
Stephanus (Fanie) D. Snyman, “Malachi 4:4−6 (Heb 3:22−24) as a point of
Convergence in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible: A Consideration of the Intra and
Intertextual Relationships,” HTS 68/1 (2012): 1-6 (1).
See for example, Barry A. Jones, “The Book of the Twelve as a Witness to
Ancient Biblical Interpretation,” in Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve
(SBLSymS 15; ed. James D. Nogalski and Marvin A. Sweeney; Atlanta: Society of
Biblical Literature, 2000), 69; Snyman, “Malachi 4:4−6,” 1–6; Baldwin, Haggai, 251;
Michael H. Floyd, Minor Prophets (part 2; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 568–
Mark J. Boda, “Messengers of Hope in Haggai–Malachi,” JSOT 2/1 (2007):
113−131; Paul R. House, The Unity of the Twelve (BLS 27; Sheffield: JSOT Press,
Hill, Malachi, 364; Petersen, Zechariah 9–14, 233.
Redditt, Haggai, 185.
Richard Coggins and Jin H. Han, Six Minor Prophets through the Century:
Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Malden: Wiley-
Blackwell, 2011), 200.
76 Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81
future generations who heard his words in scripture – with the disobedient,
indecisive or irresolute people whose national loyalty to the God of their
fathers was in danger of being dissolved.
“Since, in 4Q76 (4QXII
comes before Jonah 1:5, 10, 14–16 and 3:5–10, it
broadens the hope from
Malachi 1:11, 14 towards Malachi 3:22–24 into the expectation of salvation for
The messenger motif of Mal 3:1 has been linked with Elijah in
these verses (22–24). It believed that Moses alongside Elijah here meant to
reconnect the Prophets and the Torah and with the Writings, which is also
reminiscent of Joel 2:31–32. It reinforces the Law of Moses (v. 22), alongside
the theme of judgment, repentance, and restoration of fortunes.
This article demonstrates that the Day of Yahweh as envisioned by Malachi is
an eschatological day of judgment and restoration. The article examines
eschatological hope in the
, the eschatological peculiarity of the discourse of
Malachi’s Day of Yahweh, the identity of Malachi’s eschatological covenant
messenger, the roles of the eschatological messenger, namely, cultic restoration
and Yahweh’s correcting of past wrongs and the reversal of sinful societal
order in the overall context of the eschatological day of Yahweh. Malachi’s
eschatological vision included the prospect of purifying judgment for God’s
people. By his time, serious cultic and social problems had arisen within the
post–exilic community (1:6–14; 2:8–17; 3:6–15; 4:6). Failure to repent would
necessitate judgment. Malachi’s vision for restoration includes a covenantal
messenger, a renewed temple, and a community of reverence who will enjoy
righteousness and healing. The Lord Almighty would come as the sovereign
Lord of the nation to enforce his covenant (3:1). Yahweh is to come unexpect-
edly, and his day is to bring judgment upon the godless, but for those who fear
God, “the sun of salvation” will shine forth.
The Day of Yahweh as envisioned by Malachi will alter the realities of
life for the Yehudites. The Israelites expected a day that will bring divine
deliverance from their enemies. They hold, of course, that their enemies were
Yahweh’s enemies but they were themselves Yahweh’s enemies, by reason of
their covenant violations. So, while they eagerly await the messenger of the
covenant to come (Mal 3:1), in fact, his coming would not be delightful for
them. In the decisive events of the day, the prophet discerns with particular
simplicity the awesome presence of Yahweh in the world in his ongoing activ-
ity of judging those who have violated the covenant, and who invariably are no
longer under its protection. A future day of renewal and restoration of the for-
Gordon P. Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics
Governing Marriage Developed from the Perspective of Malachi (VTSup 52; Leiden:
Brill, 1994), 22.
Menken and Moyise, Minor Prophets, 7–8.
Udoekpo, Re–Thinking the Day of Y
Boloje & Groenewald, “Day of Yahweh,” OTE 27/1 (2014): 53-81 77
tunes will come only to those who fear the Lord. It is this eschatological dimen-
sion of the Day of Yahweh that intensifies the ethical uniqueness of the book of
Malachi. As Clendenen notes, “God’s faithful love in the past as elaborated in
1:2–5 and the coming day of Yahweh announced in 3:16–4:6 together were to
be the motivating factors for all the exhortations in the book.”
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Blessing Onoriode Boloje & Alphonso Groenewald, Department of Old Testament
Studies, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, 0002, Pretoria. Email:
email@example.com & alphonso.groenewald @up.ac.za.