These small group studies take us through almost twenty of the key events in the Old Testament. Our Old Testament Survey contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Old Testament Survey Lesson 19 – Malachi Bible Study


  1. God loved Israel (1:1-5)

  2. God deserves their honor (1:6-14)

  3. God will judge Israel if they don’t repent (2-4)

    1. God will curse those who don’t listen (2:1-4)

    2. The house of Israel violated the covenant God made with Levi (2:5-10)

    3. They were unfaithful in their marriages (2:11-17)

    4. Coming of the Messiah (3:1-6)

    5. The Israelites were robbing God of tithes (3:7-12)

    6. They spoke out against God (3:13-15)

    7. A few feared God (3:16-18)

    8. The day of judgment is coming (4)

General Information:

  • Final Old Testament book written under the inspiration of God. Following its completion came 400 years of prophetic silence that was broken by the arrival of the forerunner, John the Baptist (prophesied in 3:1).

  • Only prophetic book that ends with judgment (4:6) — a fitting conclusion that anticipates the need for the coming Messiah.

  • The structure centers on a series of probing questions (six oracles containing ten rhetorical questions and answers) from God to the people.

  • This is a vivid encounter between God and His covenant people — 47 of the 55 verses are addressed to Israel in the first person.


  • Malachi means “My Messenger” or “My Angel” (Zech. 1:9, 11).

  • In all of the Old Testament, he is only mentioned in 1:1.

  • He ministered during the days of Nehemiah.

  • We know nothing of his ancestry or hometown.

  • He was bold to confront the priestly class and social elite (1:1-14; 2:1-9; 3:2-4).

  • Jewish tradition says he was a member of the Great Synagogue (a council of scribes and other leaders who helped to reorganize religious life and culture after the Babylonian exile).


  • The following internal clues call for a writing between 475-450 BC

    • Persian domination of Israel due to the Persian term for governor (pechah) — (1:8) and references to “a book of remembrance” (3:16) and “the sun of righteousness” (4:2).

    • The temple was rebuilt (515 BC) and sacrifices were being offered (1:7-10; 3:8)

    • Many parallels with Nehemiah regarding Judah’s failures (see below).

Historical Background:

  • Jerusalem was under the rule of the Persian governor. She was plagued with insignificance and external hostilities.

  • Lacking success in light of the promised prophecies (Hag. 2:6-9, 20-23; Zech. 8:1-13) led to discouragement (3:6-12). Judah began to question the need to serve God (3:14).

  • Because of this skepticism and doubt, she once again lapsed into many of the same sins that led to her first captivity.

  • Many of these internal problems are specifically addressed in the book of Malachi (they are very similar to the ethical issues mentioned in Nehemiah).

    • Corrupt priests (1:6-2:9; Neh. 13:7-9)

    • Mixed marriage (2:11-15; Neh. 13:23-27)

    • Divorce (2:16)

    • Social injustice (3:5; Neh. 5:1-13)

    • Neglecting tithes and offerings (3:8-10; Neh. 13:10-14)

  • Against this dismal setting Malachi brought God’s Word as His “divine messenger.”

Theme and Purpose:

  • Purpose:

    • Appeal to encourage Judah to repent and serve the God who loves her with righteousness and vigor.

    • Reveal the character of God who blesses for obedience, but chastises for disobedience.

    • Reminder of the future hope and judgment when God will visit the people (3:1-5; 4:1-6).

  • Theme:

    • Israel’s covenant relationship (see 1:2-5; 2:8, 10-16) with God (His faithfulness and their faithlessness) and its expectations for righteous living.


  • The privilege of the nation (1:1-5)

  • The sins of the nation (1:6-3:15)

    • The Priests (1:6-2:9)

      • Dishonoring to the Lord (1:6-14)

      • Cursed by the Lord (2:1-9)

    • The People (2:10-3:15)

      • Idolatry (2:10-13)

      • Divorce (2:14-16)

      • Judgment at His coming (2:17-3:5)

      • Robbing God (3:6-12)

      • Doubting God (3:13-15)

  • The promises to the nation (3:16-4:6)

    • The book of remembrance (3:16-18)

    • The coming of Christ (4:1-3)

    • The coming of Elijah (4:4-6) (Taken from the

Bible Study Discussion Questions-

How long before Jesus came did Malachi deliver this message to the Israelites?

What was the condition of Israel at the time?

What is the main message of the book of Malachi?

From the message, what can you gather about the spiritual state of the Israelites at the time Malachi served God as a prophet?

Are any strengths of Israel mentioned in Malachi?

What were their major sin problems?

What does it mean that God loved Jacob and hated Esau?

Why did He hate Esau? Why did He love Jacob? Is this fair? Is it fair to Esau? Why or why not?

Did He really hate Esau or is it comparative?

What important doctrine is supported by these verses?

What principles can we apply in our own lives today? In other words, how is this doctrine relevant (many say that it isn’t)?

What was the matter with giving blind or sick animals? Weren’t they going to die anyway?

What did these examples show about the condition of their hearts?

Have you ever been guilty of offering a “blind sheep” to the Lord? What might God say to you if He examined your life and offerings?

What principles can we draw from these verses to apply in our lives today?

Why was it such a sin for them to offer this kind of animals? What can we learn about God and His character?

What covenant did they break?

What problems did Israel show in the area of marriage? (In the time of Nehemiah they had many of the same problems).

What word does God use to describe their treatment of their wives (treacherous)?

What modern day religion is represented in 2:17?

Who is the messenger in 3:1?

What event does 3:1-6 describe?

What are we doing if we don’t pay tithes?

How much is the biblical tithe?

What does God promise to do for those who tithe?

What attitude does 3:14-15 convey? Have you seen people in today’s culture that have this same attitude or who have even asked the same question?

What is unique about the ending in chapter 4?

Verse by Verse Commentary

I. God loved Israel (1:1-5)

In this book God uses a number of rhetorical questions to show what kinds of thoughts and attitudes were in their hearts and then correct their faulty way of thinking and acting. The first is answering the question how God loves the people of Israel. God starts off talking about His love. As many as He loves He will chasten. His sermon, brought by the hand of Malachi, starts with this important point and builds from there.

He uses a comparison in order to show Israel that He did extend to them special grace, favor, blessings, and privileges, which He did not extend to others (even close ones who were brothers, Esau). God loved Jacob not for any merit that Jacob himself had (Romans 9), but simply because God chose to love him specially and bring him into a special covenant relationship. So God’s love to Jacob was actual, physical, and spiritual. It wasn’t only words, but God showed His love to them time and time again. He uses the example of Esau/Edom to show that others have not received these same blessings and acts of favor. Did God truly hate Esau?

It certainly would have been deserved (it would also in the life of Jacob), but I believe the best interpretation of this passage is that the word “hate” is used in a relative sense, since God did not extend the same blessings to Jacob. In other words, in comparison to God’s love for Jacob His love for Esau was far less. But whether or not the hate was relative (it was in Luke 14:26 and other passages) it still brings up the same “problem”. It is obvious from this that God doesn’t love all people the same. So “is it fair for God to love some more than others?” This is the biggest problem many have with God’s sovereignty and why they desire to bring the decision to follow God down to man’s level. The simple answer is that if God were to deal completely equally and fairly with everyone He would “hate” both Jacob and Esau, extending neither His special blessings. But God did choose of His own will to love some and bring them into His covenant. That was His own free choice and only He knows why He chose each individual, but it certainly wasn’t our own merit.

This is a core truth of the doctrine of election and God’s sovereignty found way back in the Old Testament. How does this doctrine affect our daily life? It should cause us to live much more thankfully. It should cause us to trust in God rather than our own skill in sharing (with others) or living (ourselves). It should cause us to deflect all the glory to God. It should cause us to remain humble in His sight.

II. God deserves their honor (1:6-14)

The basic premise of this section (found in verses 6 and 4) is that God is their master, father, and King and deserves their recognition, respect, and honor. He uses very strong language stating that they have defiled despised His name. It wasn’t their words which showed that they despised Him, but their actions. Rarely will you hear people who profess to be believers say that they despise God. It is their actions that show it.

They did make some offerings to God, but these were sickly and blind. No person would be satisfied with gifts like that. Imagine you are going to a birthday party and you need to take a gift. Just before you leave the house you look around to see if you have some junk that you don’t need anymore that you can take as a gift. Maybe you will be in luck and find a broken clock or fan an mp3 that “almost can turn on”! Those are not nice gifts. How would you feel giving a good friend a gift like that? I would feel embarrassed and ashamed and my feeling would be right. However, this is exactly what the Israelites were doing in giving sacrifices to God. And this is exactly what many of us still do today. If a sacrifice doesn’t cost us anything then it is not much of a sacrifice! People are at church and see the plate coming so they scrounge in their pockets and find a few yuan. Or after all the months expenses are paid they see if they have any extra that they can give to God. When serving God with their life, they first finish all the “important” things that they need to do and then if they have some leftover time they may give part of it to God (quiet times, gospel sharing, etc.). God is the Almighty Creator, Savior, and King over the world. An emperor would probably kill peasants who offered this kind of offerings to him. Let us offer to God of the very best that we have and of our first fruits in money and in time.

We also want to be a good testimony to other believers. If they see us giving stingy offerings then they will probably think that God is not very valuable. God was not stingy with us. He gave us His only Son. Let us not be stingy with God.

III. God will judge Israel if they don’t repent (2-4)

I notice that the language used in this book is very strong. It is a personal message from God directly to His people and He doesn’t mince words. In the first part of chapter two He says that He will “curse” them, “rebuke” them, and “spread animal waste” on their faces. These are strong terms. The point is that their sin and rejection of Him is not a light matter! It deserves the harshest retribution. The priests should have been the examples for Israel. They were examples, but bad ones! They violated the covenant that God had made with Levi. Many of Judah’s sins were partially the fault of the priests. As leaders they were responsible to some extent for the actions of those under them.

The people of Judah had strayed in more ways than one. Not only had they offered God worthless sacrifices, but they also sinned in marriage. Firstly, they married foreign wives who worshipped foreign idols. Secondly, they did this at the expense of the wives of their youth. They put aside the wives they married when they were young and grossly mistreated them, divorcing them for no other cause than their own pleasure. It was unjust. Again, God uses very strong language, accusing them of “treachery”. Treachery is a betrayal of the highest kind and deserves execution. It is a willful violation of trust and friendship. Marriage is a covenant of the most sacred kind, holy to God. If believers now understood that divorce is treachery and God hates it perhaps they would marry more carefully and not keep divorce in the back of their minds as a “way out of things don’t work out”. Divorce is so rampant in today’s society and it is completely accepted by most as normal and a good option if there are difficulties in a marriage. There will be difficulties in marriage. They are certain. They don’t signify incompatibility, however. They need to be resolved in a biblical matter. What are some of the common reasons given for divorce, “he doesn’t love me anymore”, “our marriage isn’t like what it used to be”, “the feelings just aren’t there”, “she wasn’t the same person I married”, “he has changed”, “we are incompatible”. These are all copouts. They spawn from an incorrect view of love (as just romantic feelings) of marriage, and of conflict. Get to know the person before you get married and you won’t think they changed that much!

The first six verses of chapter 3 are about first the coming of John the Baptist and then the coming of the Messiah. They refer primarily to the judgment that He will bring at His second coming (though His first and second advents are not distinguished in the OT). This should not be a surprise as the book is a rebuke.

The next verses go back to the problem of tithes and offerings. They were already being cursed by God because they refused to give the tithes and offerings. It is clear that they are sinning by not giving that God. People are happy to accept the blessings that God offer. They enjoy going to church and listening to the sermons. They are more than happy to take, but many are reluctant to give. If they do give, they give extremely minimal amounts to relieve their guilty consciences or they give leftovers. This is not how God wants us to give. He wants us to give joyfully of our own free will and sacrificially of our best fruits. He even proposes a test. If you are scared of giving, worried that you won’t have enough left to make ends meet, take up God’s challenge and test Him. Begin giving freely and joyfully to Him. Watch as He opens the floodgates of heaven and rains down blessings on you. In verse eleven He also promises to continue to supply your needs. It is not a promise that you will become exceedingly rich and prosperous, but that the vital necessities of your life will not be “barren”. I’ve noticed a lot of the most generous people I’ve met are also some of the richest. Its not guaranteed to happen every time, but neither is it a coincidence. On the other hand if you don’t give faithfully to God it is very likely that the devourer will come and shrivel up your joy, if not your assets.

In verses 14-15 we see a common question that people still ask today. “What have we gained” by following God? There are at least two problems with this. First, they have the attitude that following God is only a means toward getting something in this life. They only serve God for what they can get out of it. This is completely the wrong motivation. God is not our servant. He is the Creator, the Almighty, the Beginning and End. We are to fear Him and desire to give Him glory. Secondly, they are blind and shortsighted! They are looking short-term and at the physical when they should have an eternal perspective and look at the spiritual. The wicked may prosper financially or materially, but it is short-lived and hollow. Do not seek to serve God for what you can get out of it and do not be jealous of the wicked because of their nice house or car. They are enemies of God, outcast, and bound for hell.

Main Points:

  1. God is sovereign. He does love some more than others. Thank God that He freely chose to extend His love towards you. Give Him all the glory. Remain humble before Him.
  2. God commands us to give to Him, of our very best and not the leftovers. If you are already giving to God, continue doing so and do not give up. If you are not, make up your mind to do so immediately and begin doing it before the devourer strikes you anymore!
  3. It is extremely beneficial to serve God and we should never give up doing so. Do not seek to serve God for what you can get out of it and do not be jealous of the wicked because of their nice house or car.


Isaiah 40:3 – Isaiah prophecies the coming of a messenger in very similar wording. That was John the Baptist.

Luke 1:76 – Prophecy at the time of John’s birth, saying that he would be this messenger.

2 Corinthians 9:7 – Do not give grudgingly. God loves a cheerful giver.

Luke 6:38 – Give and it will be given to you, pressed down, running over, etc.

Nehemiah 13 – Nehemiah was having to deal with many of the same problems.

Matthew 19:3-9 – God created one man and woman and divorce was not part of God’s original design.

Proverbs 3:9-10 – Honor the Lord from our wealth and the first of our produce.

Leviticus 27:30 – The tithe is holy to God.

2 Chronicles 31:4 – The tithe enables the priests to do their job.

Luke 14:26- “Hate” used in a relative sense.