IntroductionHuman beings are profoundly social creatures. Both in heavenon earth man is depended on community. Back in the Old Testament, God gave hispeople humane regulation and commandments by which they could lead a life thatis just and good. Human reason can distinguish unjust action from the justdeeds that are necessary to build just social order. In Jesus we see that justis fulfilled only in love. Our present-day notion of solidarity is inspired byChristian love of neighbour.Malachiprophesied to a nation that had reached a low spiritual condition.
Morality seemed to have been totally forgotten.Divorce (Malachi 2:13–16) and adultery (Malachi 3:5) were so common that thetotal destruction of Jewish families seemed almost imminent. The less-privileged– the widows, orphans, and foreigners – were ignored and/or even persecuted(Malachi 3:5). Discrimination was the norm.
Perjury was common within the courtsystem (Malachi 3:5), as was employers cheating their employees (Malachi 3:5).The people were corrupt and sin was publicly practiced and tolerated1.2. Background of the bookAuthor: Malachi means”my messenger.” It may be a shortened form of a compound word spelled in asimilar fashion that means “messenger of God”2. Date: It is believedthat Malachi was written around 400 BC. It was written shortly after the booksof Ezra and Nehemiah.
It continues withsome similar themes as seen in those two books: inter-marriage with pagans,(Ezra 9-10, Nehemiah 13:23-27, Malachi 2:11), a failure to tithe (Nehemiah13:10-14, Malachi 3:8-10), and various social injustices (Nehemiah 5:1-13, Malachi3:5)3. Theme: A remnant ofthe Israelites, who had been exiled, returned to Jerusalem to rebuild thetemple. The people were awaiting the”new covenant” as prophesied by Joel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah. Malachi’s role is to call the nation torepentance. He challenges them to returnto the covenant of God so that they might receive His blessings. The prophetcommends the faithful but warns of the coming judgment. He urges the people to seek revival4. 3.
The Covenant and itsbreachCovenantrelationship entails honour (1:2–2:9) Malachi’sfirst major message concerns the failure of the priests to ensure that Yahwehwas properly honoured by the people in a way befitting the covenantrelationship which they shared.Covenantrelationship entails faithfulness (2:10–3:6) Inthis section, Yahweh will remind the people of their need to maintain covenantfaithfulness. This section differs from the previous section in that theaddressees are the people instead of just the priests and that the concerns areethical rather than cultic.Covenantrelationship entails repentance and obedience(3:7–4:6) Thelast section of Malachi is framed by the key term “return” which occurs in both3:7 and 4:6. Thus the key concept is repentance and return.
Tobe in covenant relationship with God requires respect for and obedience to thecovenant’s stipulations. Failure to do so dishonours God and brings severeconsequences. The covenant relationship with Yahweh was violated was through alack of faith in the goodness and motives of God. The people were accusing God offavouring the evil and ignoring justice. Israelites deal faithlessly with oneanother with actions which profane the covenant of the fathers5.
4. Social problemsDivorce Malachiappears to be attacking either the practice of divorcing Jewish wives in favourof foreign ones (a practice which Ezra vehemently condemns) or, alternatively,Malachi could be condemning the practice of divorcing foreign wives in favourof Jewish wives (a practice which Ezra promoted). Malachi appears adamant thatnationality is not a valid reason to terminate a marriage, ‘for I hate divorce,says the Lord’ (2v16). God takes the covenant of marriage seriously and he doesnot want it broken.
We are to stay true to the spouse of our youth6. Thisunit is a testimony to the high regard Yahweh has for marriage. Marriage ismore than a mutual contract between a man and a woman; it also has religiousand social consequences for the community at large. Furthermore, it is clearfrom this passage that a man may not simply replace “the woman of hisyouth” foranother one when it is convenient for him to do so. In this respect Yahweh onceagain acts as the defender of the rights of the helpless in society. It is alsoof some significance that it is said that one who divorces covers his garmentwith violence7.AdulteryAdulteryis explicitly forbidden in the Decalogue (Exod 20:14; Deut 5:18). Adultery wasseen as a man having sexual relationships with a married woman.
This was also atransgression punishable with the death penalty (Lev 20:10). That adultery ismentioned in Mal 2:14 and Mal 3:5 brings to mind once again the high regard theprophet has for marriage as is seen from the previous part in 2:10–16. Unstablefamily relationships because of adultery are seen as a threat in ancientsocieties and therefore these strong prohibitions are quite understandable. Itis a matter raised in the wisdom literature as well where a man is advised tostay away from a strange woman (Prov 5:3–5; 7:5– 27)8Oppressing the weakTodefraud labourers from their wages can also be traced back to Deuteronomy(15:18; 24:14). From Deut 24:14–15 it seems that to defraud a person from hiswages has the implication of not paying him on the day that he earns his money.To oppress the widow and the orphan (more precisely a fatherless child)expresses a concern for the community and they are often mentioned togetherwith the alien. It was specially the widows and orphans in a community who wereparticularly vulnerable in society.
With the loss of a husband and father awidow and fatherless child were deprived of the care they were entitled to andleft unprotected in an all too often harsh society. The socially weak andvulnerable members of the community may not be exploited. To take care for theorphan and the widow is a concern in the Torah (Exod 22:21–24; Deut 24:17–22)as well as in the prophetic literature (Isa 1:17; 10:2; Jer 7:6)9. 5. Messagefor todayDivorceis a grave offence against the natural law.
It claims to break the contract, towhich the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorcedoes injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is thesign (CCC 2384).Divorceis immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and intosociety. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to thechildren traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn betweenthem, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague onsociety (CCC 2385).Thechurch believes that God, the author of marriage, established it as a permanentunion. When two people marry, they form an unbreakable bond. The Church doesnot recognise a civil divorce because the state cannot dissolve what isindissoluble. In such circumstances people getting ready for marriage should bethoroughly instructed on all the aspects of marriage.
Young people should bemade to realise the richness of conjugal love. At the same time, we mustunderstand the pain of those caught in divorce. When divorce is the onlypossible recourse, we must offer support to those involved and encourage themto remain close to the lord specially through the Holy Eucharist. Inadultery, a married person has sexual relations with another, married or not,who is not his/her spouse. Only marriage authorizes this relationship betweentwo persons of different sex. Thus adultery violates chastity.
Byadultery, a married person has sexual relations with another, married or not,who is not his/her spouse but through marriage, the spouses mutually givethemselves to each other, exclusively and perpetually. Thus adultery isunjust toward the faithful spouse because it gives to another that which he (orshe) alone has the exclusive right to receive.God became poor to enrich us by his poverty. Theoption for the poor, then, arises from the very heart of the mission of thechurch because it is central to the saving mission of Christ. Thepreferential option for the poor is simply the attempt to read the gospel and tounderstand God from the perspective and through the eyes of the poor.
Notbecause the poor themselves are any better than the rich, but simply becauseGod is identified in a special way with the poor in the person of Jesus Christ10.PopeFrancis has renewed an emphasis on the gospel being good news for the poor. Inthat regard the pope represents both a source of hope and a challenge to thechurch, to all of us, to embody in our own lives and actions what we claim tobelieve as a community, as a church, and as individuals. 6.
ConclusionMalachi, calls for the enactment of communal ethicssuch as Christian social responsibility and an engagement in the pursuit oftruth and justice. Thus, in the light of the special mission of the Church inthe world, Malachi’s ethics serves as a strong enough motivation for us to anengagement and commitment to the mission of justice and affirmation ofChristian social responsibility. Christian mission in the world must beassociated with a deep passion and commitment to alleviating if not eradicatingpeople’s needs.
Thus, as Christians proclaim the reign and rule of Yahweh inthe world, it is necessary that they be devoted to the requirements of peaceand justice. God’s ethical requirements of justice and righteousness must beupheld and emphasised so as to impact the human society with its culture ofnegligence11.SinceGod hates evil and injustice, we should not be afraid to denounce evil andinjustice wherever they exist1 Blessing O. B?l?j?.
‘Malachi’sconcern for social justice: Malachi 2:17 and 3:5 and its ethical imperativesfor faith communities’. https://hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/2072/46792 Malachi study guide pdf3 Malachi study guide pdf4 Malachi study guide pdf5 Malachi notes pdf6 Malachi pdf7 168 169 1610Stephen P. White, ‘Why we need a Church that is poor and forthe poor’. article-on-line (accessed on 20 January, 2018); available fromhttp://www.
uscatholic.org/articles/201307/how-can-we-be-church-poor-2753911Blessing O. B?l?j?. ‘Malachi’s concernfor social justice: Malachi 2:17 and 3:5 and its ethical imperatives for faithcommunities’.article-on-line (accessed on 21 January, 2018); availablefromhttps://hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/2072/4679