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Lesson Plan for Malachi

Malachi in Hebrew means "my messenger" or "my angel". How the name or word is used in Malachi 3:1 causes most secular and believing biblical scholars to suggest that Malachi isn't a proper name of some ancient prophet but was most likely a name title. Chronologically and compositionally, it is the last book of the Old Testament. Most scholars claim the book was written around 430 BCE, which would have been 85 years after the temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem when Cyrus and Darius allowed the people of Judah to return and rebuild Jerusalem.

The entirety of the book of Malachi is a revelation given to warn the Levitical Priests and, partly, the rest of the hosts of Israel. Interestingly, verse one begins with a poor translation. It says the following:
"The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi."

Many of the books written by the minor prophets begin this way. But the word "burden" comes from the Hebrew word massa' and literally means "to lift up the voice". Better translations render this word as "oracle" or "pronouncement", but a more nuanced understanding of the word, I feel, is important. One scholar expresses the fully intended meaning this way: "the prophetic exposition of divine revelation" (1). In short, the burden here is not so much that the prophet has to go out and express uncomfortable words to the people, but it is the burden of trying to teach the people the word of the Lord "according to their understanding". The messenger and other prophets will pull from the revelation they were given to complement their teaching, but it is ultimately their burden to teach the revelations of God in such a way we or the people can understand them. It sort of suggests that the Lord sometimes communicates things to his prophets that would be harder for us to understand. How grateful we should be for the "burden" President Nelson carries in trying to teach us about the Savior and the things of eternity.


The messenger, or Malachi, takes to task the priests on several issues. As you read the text you find the priests and the people respond to Malachi with six different questions and these questions sort of give the impression that they are clueless as to how they have not honored the covenant. 

For example, the Lord tells them that he loves them from the start. The priests and people respond by saying:

"Wherein hast thou loved us?" (Malachi 1:2)

The people, even the priests, doubt that the Lord actually loves them. 

QUESTION: Why would they feel that way? And how do we sometimes feel the same way they do?

The word used for love or mercy in most of the Old Testament is hesed. It is a very important word, which is why I saved it for the last lesson of the year to review it as we transition into the New Testament.

President Nelson recently wrote about this Hebrew word in the October 2022 Liahona:
"Once we make a covenant with God, we leave neutral ground forever. God will not abandon His relationship with those who have forged such a bond with Him. In fact, all those who have made a covenant with God have access to a special kind of love and mercy. In the Hebrew language, that covenantal love is called hesed (חֶסֶד).

Hesed has no adequate English equivalent. Translators of the King James Version of the Bible must have struggled with how to render hesed in English. They often chose “lovingkindness.” This captures much but not all the meaning of hesed. Other translations were also rendered, such as “mercy” and “goodness.” Hesed is a unique term describing a covenant relationship in which both parties are bound to be loyal and faithful to each other.

A celestial marriage is such a covenant relationship. A husband and wife make a covenant with God and with each other to be loyal and faithful to each other.

Hesed is a special kind of love and mercy that God feels for and extends to those who have made a covenant with Him. And we reciprocate with hesed for Him.

Because God has hesed for those who have covenanted with Him, He will love them. He will continue to work with them and offer them opportunities to change. He will forgive them when they repent. And should they stray, He will help them find their way back to Him." (2)

Some scholars refer to this kind of love as "covenant faithfulness". Others have written that this makes it abundantly clear that after God expresses his love "what is expected in return is proper worship" (Eerdmans's Commentary on the Bible). In other words, "if ye love me, keep my commandments" (see John 14:15). God loves us universally and will reach out to us even if we fall away, like he continually does with Israel, but to abound in His love requires that we honor this idea of hesed.


Moving on, the messenger then accuses Israel of giving less than what was required in their offerings. They offer animals that are sick and blind instead of offering their best (see verses 6-8). They offer bad meat and fruit at the table in the temple (see verse 12). As a result, the Lord accuses the priests and people that they despise Him and have polluted His name. The people then ask:

"Wherein have we despised thy name?" (Malachi 1:6)

"Wherein have we polluted thee?" (Malachi 1:7)

QUESTION: Why would the Lord accuse them of despising Him and polluting His name? Doesn't that seem kind of harsh? Aren't they still at least offering sacrifices?

Brigham Young once wrote:
"How shall we know that we obey [God]? There is but one method by which we can know it, and that is by the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord witnessing unto our spirit that we are His, that we love Him, and that He loves us. It is by the spirit of revelation we know this." (3)

The Lord then laments about how weary he is because the people offer poor offerings and they have placed a strange god within their most holy places. Malachi 2:11-13 suggests, according to one scholar, that this strange god has been placed in the Holy of Holies. This sin is described as a marriage, which reflects the idea of hesed mentioned earlier. I picture the response of the priests almost like how a husband responds to his wife. They say:

"Wherein have we wearied him?" (Malachi 2:17)

The constant one-sided covenant faithfulness wearies the Lord as it does a faithful spouse to an unfaithful spouse. Thankfully, His ways are not our ways because of His hesed. The covenant endures and he reaches out all day long to draw us back.


Chapters 3 & 4 are taken by the Savior and given to the Nephites in 3 Nephi chapters 24-25. Some scholars suggest that the Savior does this because of the temple context of these chapters in Malachi and the setting in which the Nephites find themselves, gathered around the Savior at the temple in Bountiful. In short, this suggests these chapters are heavy with themes that are learned through going through the Lord's House.  (4)

Chapter 3 begins with a discussion about the Lord sending a messenger to prepare the way before Him. This messenger is malachi in Hebrew. The Book of Mormon & The New Testament both attest that this messenger is John the Baptist (see 1 Nephi 11:27 & Matthew 11:10). It is because of this use of the name of Malachi but being a clear reference to John the Baptist (and others) that causes biblical scholars to think the writer of the book of Malachi was a similar "messenger"; not really named Malachi.

It is prophesied that the Lord will come to His temple, which has had multiple fulfillments and will have future fulfillments. The messenger goes on to scold the Levitical priests but prophesying that one day they will offer an offering in righteousness. Interestingly, the Hebrew for "righteousness" is tzedek which is one of the roots of the name of Melchizedek. Elder John A. Widstoe once commented:
 "The "offering in righteousness" (D&C 128:24) is here identified with temple work for the salvation of the dead, which encompasses all the principles of the plan of salvation.
When, therefore, the sons of Levi accept Christ and His gospel, subject themselves to the ordinances of the Church, and become active in gospel requirements, they will offer the offering in righteousness of which has been spoken." (Evidences and Reconciliations [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era], 247)

 After this is done the Lord promises protection to the "sons of Jacob" (see verse 6) for when the fiery judgments come. He then petitions them to "Return unto me so that I may return unto you" (verse 7). The priests follow up with a seemingly clueless response:

"Wherein shall we return?" (Malachi 3:7)

QUESTION: How does one return when they don't feel they need to? Or, in other words, how might we guard against being blind to our need to constantly return unto the Lord?


In almost a seamless transition, the Lord appears to give them an answer about how they can return.

READ Malachi 3:8-12

"8 ¶ Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.

12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts."
"Wherein have we robbed thee?" (Malachi 3:8)

Contextually, these verses about tithing are an admonition to the priests to RETURN the tithes back to the temple storehouse. In the law of Moses, the Levitical priests were to be given the tithed produce as their living wage every third year (see Deuteronomy 14:28). The priests, here, had taken too much which is why they are asked to bring the tithes back so there might be meat in the Lord's House. In some sense, these verses are not just about tithing. They are also verses, probably more so, about getting temple worship and reverence for the Lord's House to its rightful place in the priests' hearts. 

QUESTION: The Lord and his prophets usually warn against seeking after signs, but here the Lord explicitly asks the priests to prove Him. Why would he do that here? Why does He ask us to prove him when it comes to tithing and the temple?

Preach My Gospel might hint at it, which says:
"Paying tithing is an expression of our faith. It is an outward sign of our belief in God and His work." (5)

 Speaking of temples, President Nelson has recently said:

"The temple lies at the center of strengthening our faith and spiritual fortitude because the Savior and His doctrine are the very heart of the temple. Everything taught in the temple, through instruction and through the Spirit, increases our understanding of Jesus Christ. His essential ordinances bind us to Him through sacred priesthood covenants. Then, as we keep our covenants, He endows us with His healing, strengthening power. And oh, how we will need His power in the days ahead... The Lord has declared that despite today’s unprecedented challenges, those who build their foundations upon Jesus Christ, and have learned how to draw upon His power, need not succumb to the unique anxieties of this era... Everything we believe and every promise God has made to His covenant people come together in the temple... Thus, in the house of the Lord, we can make the same covenants with God that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made. And we can receive the same blessings!" (6)

An additional note, "the windows of heaven" is the exact phrase used in Genesis 7:11 when the rains and flood began to consume the earth during the great deluge of Noah's day. This phrase, even in Hebrew, is repurposed here to invoke the number of heavenly blessings unleashed in our lives once we show reverence for our tithes, offerings, and the holy temple.

The messenger or the Lord then begins to speak about those who will be protected on the great and last day.


The Lord will Seal his Jewels against the Day of the Lord (Malachi 3:16-18 & 4:1-4)

READ Malachi 3:16-18

"16 ¶ Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.

17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."

 Jewels in Hebrew is the same word used in Exodus 19:5-6 to describe the Lord's people as a peculiar people. The peculiar people theme is directly connected in those verses with the Lord's intent to create a kingdom of Kings & Priests. Interestingly, some scholars suggest that this word, segullah, can also mean to be sealed.

Jewels can withstand the heat of the day. For example, Diamonds have a melting point, speaking in Celsius, which is 1000 degrees more than brick. Diamonds have a higher melting point than any pure metal as well (In Fahrenheit, Diamonds melt at 6,422 degrees and boil at 8,726 degrees)

In the Hebrew Bible, there is no chapter break between chapters 3 & 4. Therefore, chapter 4 is meant to be read in this context of burning and sealings.

READ Malachi 4:1-6
"1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

2 ¶ But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.

4 ¶ Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

5 ¶ Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

Elijah & Curses (Malachi 4:5-6)

Verses 5 & 6 are the only scriptures that are quoted in all of our standard works of scripture, but there are interesting differences in some of them.

As a class, group together and compare Malachi 4:5-6 with D&C 2:1-3.

QUESTION: What are the differences and why might they be different?

(FOR EXAMPLE, why does D&C 2 say that the priesthood will be revealed through Elijah? Why does D&C 2 only focus on the children? Why does one scripture say, "turn the hearts" and the other says "plant the promises"? D&C 2 says "utterly wasted" instead of "curse"?)

To conclude, the "curse" or "utterly wasted" is herem in Hebrew. In essence, when that word in Hebrew is used as a noun it can mean to devote or consecrate something. When it is used as a verb, it means to "utterly destroy". A way I personally like to think of it is "the windows of heaven" phrase discussed earlier. In one instance it destroys with the great flood. In another instance it rains forth holiness upon the Lord’s covenant people. In both instances, the Everlasting Covenant moves forward.

QUESTION: As we have read the Old Testament this year, we have read a lot about herem. We have also read a lot about the Lord's hesed (see earlier in the lesson for that meaning). How does herem fit the Lord's hesed (covenantal love)? How do we see this spilling over into the New Testament as we begin that study in the new year?

As we transition into the New Testament, it is important to see it as a continuation of the narrative the Old Testament began. One scholar has written:
"In the Christian canonical Bible there is a single over-arching narrative. It is a story which runs from creation to new creation... The great bulk of the story focuses quite narrowly on the fortunes of a single family in the Middle East. They are described as the people through whom the creator God will act to rescue the whole world. The choice of this particular family does not imply that the creator has lost interest in other human beings or the cosmos at large; on the contrary, it is because he wishes to address them with his active and rescuing purposes that he has chosen this one family in the first place... The New Testament declares with one voice that the over-arching story reached its climax in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, whom the early Christians believed to be the promised Messiah of Israel." (7)
In the Old Testament, we began in the pre-earth life and the ancients of Adam, Enoch, & Noah. Once wickedness had spread over the world so vastly, the Lord renewed his Everlasting Covenant with Abraham. We call this the Abrahamic covenant and its purpose is to save and seal the human family through the saving efforts of Abraham's seed. Even before Christ came, the Lord told the former slaves of Egypt that He desired to appear unto them and create out of them a "kingdom of kings and priests." Through repeated efforts from the Lord and His prophets, that ideal always seemed to fall short. Then we transition to the New Testament. President Nelson comments on how we should view this transition:
"In the closing text of the Old Testament, we read of Malachi’s promise that Elijah will “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers”. In ancient Israel, such reference to the fathers would have included fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant becomes feasible because of the Atonement of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is at the center of the Abrahamic covenant. The Old Testament is not only a book of scripture; it is also a book of history." (8)

The New Testament is a record of how the Abrahamic covenant gained its power to save through the Savior Jesus Christ. It is the Lord coming to declare a new creation that will be accomplished through those who take upon themselves His name and become the seed of Abraham. 


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