January 3, 2017

Holy Prophet Malachi

Holy Prophet Malachi (Feast Day - January 3)


O boast of Angels called Malachi,
We boast also that you stand with the Angels.
On the third the life of Malachi came out of his body and flew away.

Because Malachi's name does not occur elsewhere in Scripture, some doubt whether "Malachi" is intended to be the personal name of the prophet. None of the other prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible or the Greek Old Testament are anonymous. The form mal'akhi, signifies "my messenger"; it occurs in Malachi 3:1 (compare to Malachi 2:7). But this form of itself would hardly be appropriate as a proper name without some additional syllable such as Yah, whence mal'akhiah, i.e. "messenger of Elohim." Haggai, in fact, is expressly designated "messenger of Elohim" (Haggai 1:13). Besides, the superscriptions prefixed to the book, in both the Septuagint and the Vulgate, warrant the supposition that Malachi's full name ended with the syllable -yah. At the same time the Greek Old Testament translates the last clause of Malachi 1:1, "by the hand of his messenger," and the Targum reads, "by the hand of my angel, whose name is called Ezra the scribe." Saint Jerome suggests this may be because Ezra is seen as an intermediary between the prophets and the "great synagogue." In On the Death of the Prophets, we read that "because of his beauty he was surnamed Angel." According to Saint Nikolai Velimirovich, "According to legend, the people called him an angel, perhaps because of his external beauty or because of his spiritual purity, or even, perhaps because of his association with an angel of God. On many occasions he spoke face to face with an angel. When this occurred, others heard the voice of an angel; but they were not worthy to see the face of the angel. That which the angel proclaimed, the young Malachi prophesied."

Malachi prophesied during the Persian period, and after the reconstruction and dedication of the second Temple in 516 BC. More specifically, Malachi probably lived and labored during the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, and some even identify him as being either Ezra or Nehemiah. The abuses which Malachi mentions in his writings correspond so exactly with those which Nehemiah found on his second visit to Jerusalem in 432 BC (Nehemiah 13:7) that it seems reasonably certain that he prophesied shortly before that date, i.e. between 445 and 432 BC.

The Book of Malachi was written to correct the lax religious and social behavior of the Israelites – particularly the priests – in post-exilic Jerusalem. Although the prophets urged the people of Judah and Israel to see their exile as punishment for failing to uphold their covenant with Elohim, it was not long after they had been restored to the land and to Temple worship that the people's commitment to their God began, once again, to wane. It was in this context that the prophet commonly referred to as Malachi delivered his prophecy.

In 1:2, Malachi has the people of Israel question God's love for them. This introduction to the book illustrates the severity of the situation which Malachi addresses. The graveness of the situation is also indicated by the dialectical style with which Malachi confronts his audience. Malachi proceeds to accuse his audience of failing to respect God as God deserves. One way in which this disrespect is made manifest is through the substandard sacrifices which Malachi claims are being offered by the priests. While Elohim demands animals that are "without blemish" (Leviticus 1:3), the priests, who were "to determine whether the animal was acceptable," were offering blind, lame and sick animals for sacrifice because they thought nobody would notice.

In 2:10, Malachi addresses the issue of divorce. On this topic, Malachi deals with divorce both as a social problem ("Why then are we faithless to one another ... ?" 2:10) and as a religious problem ("Judah ... has married the daughter of a foreign god" 2:11). Malachi urges each to remain steadfast to the wife of his youth.

Malachi also criticizes his audience for questioning God's justice. He reminds them that God is just, exhorting them to be faithful as they await that justice. Malachi quickly goes on to point out that the people have not been faithful. In fact, the people are not giving God all that God deserves. Just as the priests have been offering unacceptable sacrifices, so the people have been neglecting to offer their full tithe to Elohim. The result of these shortcomings is that the people come to believe that no good comes out of serving God.

Mainly, he is the prophet of the Dreadful Judgment. "Before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day" (Malachi 3: 23-24). Malachi assures the faithful among his audience that in the eschaton, the differences between those who served God faithfully and those who did not will become clear.

The book concludes by calling upon the teachings of Moses ("Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel" 4:4) and by promising that Elijah will return prior to the Day of Elohim. Thus nearly five hundred years before Christ, Malachi clearly prophesied the coming and the mission of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner of the Lord: "Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me" (Malachi 3:1). This interpretation of the identity of Elijah with John the Forerunner is confirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:14; 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13). In Luke 1:17, we learn that the Angel Gabriel told Zechariah, John’s father, that John would fulfill Malachi 4:6, stating that he would go before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah.”

Following Malachi, it is believed there were no more prophets in Israel until John the Forerunner.


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Malachi proclaims what the angel tells him:
The day, the day, O the day is coming! The day which like an oven is blazing.
Who will endure it? Who will survive it?
Who, with their justice, before the Judge will stand?
All non-believers as a dry stubble will be
Food for the hungry fire. Weeping, sighing and shrieking!
The fire overflows and as a river flows,
Here what can the tongue of a sinner say?
O, my priests, you, who do not render Me praise,
Why do not your tongues the glory of the Lord sing?
Everywhere, among the people, you have become despised,
For My judgment, law and miracles you scorn.
I, the Lord am speaking, the Lord of hosts,
O, of those odious sorcerers, the judgment severe!
The fire when it charges, the smoke and the dreadful rumble it chases
Then, the hand of the Lord does not caress anymore.
Repent, O people, while days you have left,
Return to Me and I will return to you.
I the Lord am speaking, the Lord of hosts,
Return to Me and I will return to you.
Malachi proclaims what the angel tells him:
The day, the day, O the day is coming! The day which like an oven is blazing.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
Bearing the name of the Angels, O glorious Malachi, thou didst live the angelic life on earth, thou summit of the Prophets. Thou didst mysteriously converse with Angels, and wast filled with divine glory, and dost set forth knowledge of things to come, that we may be enlightened in soul.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
O Malachi enriched with the gift of prophecy, thou didst openly foretell Christ's coming and the world's salvation. His splendour illumines the universe.