Q&A: Date of Malachi

Can you give some light on when Malachi was penned?

Dating the prophecy of Malachi with absolute certainty is impossible. There are no references outside of this prophecy to Malachi or his ministry, nor are there any references within the book to historic events that we can date. However, while we cannot date the prophecy to an exact year – or even an exact decade – there is sufficient internal evidence to allow us to be confident about placing Malachi and his prophecy in approximately the same period as the ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah.

First, Malachi 1:8 refers to the “governor” of the people. The word used in the original is pechah, a loan word of Persian origin, which also occurs in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai. It is clear, therefore, that Malachi prophesied at a time when a Persian governor was in authority in Jerusalem.

Second, it is clear that Malachi prophesied when temple worship and sacrifice were in operation. This dates the book sometime after the dedication of Zerubbabal’s temple in 515BC. Malachi’s ministry rebukes the deterioration of temple worship into formalism, so it would seem to indicate that some time had passed since the reconstruction of the temple.

Third, the main concerns of Malachi are similar to those of Ezra and Nehemiah: intermarriages with foreign wives (Mal 2:11, cf. Ezra 9-10; Neh 13:23-27); failure to pay tithes (Mal 3:8-10, cf. Neh 13:10-14); and social injustice (Mal 3:5, cf. Neh 5:1-13).

In light of this, it seems legitimate to conclude – as nearly all commentators do – that Malachi can be dated to the era of Ezra and Nehemiah, and tentatively assigned a date somewhere in the region of 450BC.