Malachi does not date his prophecy like Haggai and Zechariah, but Malachi does provide some
clues in his text. He refers to a functioning Temple in Jerusalem with an active priesthood and he refers to a governor of Judah instead of a king. With that insight it is safe to date this book during
the Persian period (after 538 BC) since the Persian Emperor had appointed a governor over
Judah for the Jews who had returned from Babylon. And, the functioning Temple leads us to
assume this prophecy was given a after 516 BC the year the rebuilt Temple was completed.
It is most likely a few years after 516 because Malachi is rebuking the people and the priests for allowing their worship to drift towards insincere offerings and meaningless rituals. This book is a warning against behavior that was similar to the behavior that had led Judah into the captivity from which they had returned. It is possible that Persians battle with the Greeks at Marathon in
490 BC was the occasion for calling the Jews back to a serious relationship with their God.
Malachi accuses the priests of showing “contempt” for the name of the Lord. To these accusations
the priests reply, “How have we shown contempt?” It was beyond their self-righteous, socially
pious opinion to even consider that they had a problem. Malachi addresses one of their common practices that despised the Lord and showed contempt for his name.
This general disregard for sincere worship by the priest was a serious problem since the priest
were the leaders and set the spiritual mood for the nation. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah,
and others often blamed the priests and the professional prophets for the national decline
that led to the Babylonian captivity.
Malachi makes a good point at the end by asking them if the Governor would allow himself
to be treated with contempt? The answer is clearly, “No!” The Governor, who was backed by
the power of the Persian Crown, would have vigorously confronted this incompetent performance
by eradicating the slackers and replacing them with more competent administrators in these
positions of responsibility in his government.