INTRODUCTION TO MALACHI
This book, in the Hebrew copies, is called "Sepher Malachi", the Book of Malachi; in the Vulgate Latin version, "the Prophecy of Malachi"; in the Syriac and Arabic versions, "the Prophecy of the Prophet Malachi"; According to LactantiusF1De vera Sapientia, l. 4. c. 5. p. 279. , Zechariah was the last of the prophets; but the more commonly received opinion, and the truest, is, that Malachi was the last; hence Aben Ezra calls him Myaybnh Pwo, "the end of the prophets"; and by Kimchi he is said to be, Mbv Nwrxa "the last of them"; and sometimes, by the Rabbins, Myaybnh Mtwx, "the seal of the prophets"F2Nizzachon, p. 200. apud Hottinger. Thes. Phil. p. 489. ; by whom they are all sealed up, concluded, and finished. His name signifies "my angel", as is commonly said; though HillerusF3Onomastic. Sacr. p. 147, 359, 541. makes it to signify "the angel of the Lord"; hence some have thought that he was not a man, but an angel; and so the Septuagint render ykalm dyb, in the first verse Malachi 1:1, "by the hand of his angel"; and others have thought that the book takes its name, not from the author of it, but from the mention that is made of the messenger or angel of the Lord, John the Baptist, in Malachi 3:1 but the more prevailing opinion is, that Malachi is the name of a man, the writer of the book, about whom the Jews have been divided. Rab Nachman says Malachi was Mordecai; and that he was so called because he was second to the king. R. Joshua ben Korcha contradicts him, and affirms Malachi is Ezra; and to him agrees the Chaldee paraphrase on Malachi 1:1 which says, that Malachi, his name is called Ezra the scribe; but, as Kimchi observes, Ezra is never called a prophet, as Malachi is, only a scribe; wherefore in the TalmudF4T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 15. 1. , where this matter is debated, it is concluded thus; but the wise men say, Malachi is his name; that is, it is the proper name of a man; there was a man of this name, that wrote this prophecy; not Mordecai, nor Ezra, nor Zerubbabel, nor Nehemiah, as some have thought; but Malachi: and if the accounts of EpiphaniusF5De Prophet. Vita & Interitu, c. 22. and IsidoreF6De Vita & Morte Sanct. c. 51. are to be credited, this prophet was born at Sapho, in the tribe of Zebulun; and had his name from his beautiful form, and unblemished life; and that he died very young, and was buried in his own field. The time of his prophesying is not agreed on: the Jews commonly make him contemporary with Haggai and Zechariah; they sayF7T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 15. 1. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 20. p. 55. that Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, all of them prophesied in the second year of Darius; and Ganz, their chronologerF8Ganz, Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 18. 1. , places the death of these prophets together in one year; but he seems to be later than they: Haggai prophesied before the building of the temple; Zechariah about the time of it; and Malachi after it, when the temple was rebuilt, and the worship of God restored and settled; and when both priests and people were become very corrupt and degenerate, of which he complains; so that it is possible that he might live a century after the other prophets, and about four centuries before the coming of Christ, during which time prophecy ceased; though some think he lived not long before the times of Christ, which is not probable. Bishop UsherF9Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3589. makes him contemporary with Nehemiah, and places him in the year 416 B.C.; and Mr. WhistonF11Chronological Tables, cent. 12. in the year 400 B.C.; Mr. BedfordF12Scripture Chronology, p. 725. in the year 424 B.C.: however, this book has been always accounted authentic, and a part of the canon of the Scripture; and is confirmed by the passages cited out of it, and the references made unto it, in the New Testament, Matthew 11:10. The general design of it is to reprove the Jews for their ingratitude to the Lord, their neglect and contempt of his worship, and breach of his laws; and to raise in the minds of the truly godly an expectation of the Messiah, and his forerunner, John the Baptist.