Malachi is mostly a reprimand. We’re in the post-exilic phase and the people seem to be acting up again.
This chapter explains the way the people were not sacrificing right. It may seem petty on the outside but it was one if the things God asked of them in exchange for absolute protection from just about everything but they were trying to cheat the system.
God reprimands the priests for not preaching what they are supposed to and telling them that He won’t honor their promises. He says they “married the daughter of a foreign god”, which is an interesting analogy to make here. The reference is in honoring our parents and that turning away from their religion is no way to honor them. Using marriage as a way to say that they chose to go against their own family for the traditions and beliefs of another is interesting. I have seen that happen before when people with different traditions marry, one person just gets absorbed into the family. Likewise, my parents have managed to keep two sets of traditions alive, but they weren’t competing traditions either. They simply celebrated the same things in different ways. I can’t imagine having to make the choice in beliefs and traditions and therefore choosing whose upbringing to honor.
It’s an interesting analogy but not one that I think specifically discredits women. I also get that it can be perceived as choosing your new family because of something she had done or forced, which would be bad. Still, I would think that if you chose to marry someone with such a different belief system, you would know enough about what you were getting into to know that this kind of serving two masters would be bad. None of this makes that daughter at fault though.
It’s followed later by a mentioned about the “wife of your youth” and continues the analogy by making it sound like the people divorced God and went off with this other family and the first covenant was never voided. It does a double lesson by stressing that you can’t just change your mind about marriage. I realize that talking about divorce is a dicey subject, especially as a feminist, but I also get the religious side of it. Divorce shouldn’t be taken lightly, and we shouldn’t be jumping in and out of marriage and covenant with people. If we tell someone we’ll be there for the rest of their lives to take care of them, we shouldn’t abandon them. We should abandon faith with them. We shouldn’t even put ourselves in that position. The analogy says that the people did and so God is mad at them for it. He’s mad at them for turning their backs on Him as easily as one might turn their backs on a spouse they’re no longer in love with, particularly if they’ve found a new love. The other thing in the analogy is that the people are wondering why God isn’t with them anymore, why He doesn’t help, but they had turned their backs on him and run around and now they were trying to get back into good graces like a husband caught cheating when he realizes he needed his first wife for something.
I feel like the overall sentiment is in favor of men keeping their promises to women, though I’m sure it goes the other way too and just chose the masculine pronouns.
Again, God reprimands the people. This time it is for “robbing” Him mostly. They don’t give Him due respect or sacrifice. They also call each other out and judge and say that people who aren’t doing the right thing “prosper” while others don’t. I know it’s not an uncommon feeling even today that bad people get to go on doing bad things to good people. The book of remembrance that is mentioned at the end sounded a bit like the saints that some Christian denominations remember now.
This last one warns of a coming day when Elijah comes back and God comes with him. I get where people call this a prophecy of John the Baptist and then Jesus but I can also see how people of the time didn’t get it and how some would still call it pretty vague.
It’s a pretty small and vague book of prophecies, as so many prophecies have been. Still there’s quite a bit of time spent reprimanding the people for their shortcomings. It’s not even so much that they mess up but that they don’t seem to have any intention of doing better or feeling bad about it. This is the last book of the minor prophets and the last book of the Old Testament.