Mutual recriminations: God and Israel in the book of Malachi

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From the time that Pfeiffers work on the structure of the Book of Malachi was published, scholars have divided the Book into six oracles with a common question/answer answer format. Most scholars attempt to identify the genre of the oracles and their sitz im leben according to this struc-ture. However, scholars have overlooked one basic feature connected with this format in the Book of Malachi, a feature that has significant ramifications for the understanding of the book. Examining the content of the questions and answers, we discover that they fall into two different categories, one in which the prophet rebukes the people and the people attempt to justify their actions (in the second, third, and fifth oracles), and one in which the main accusation is made by the people against God, while God justifies Himself against the peoples accusations (in the first, fourth, and sixth oracles). Having made this distinction, we can understand more clearly the principle on which the whole book is based. The oracles of Malachi reflect a breach in the covenantal rela-tionship between God and the people that is expressed through mutual accu-sations. The prophet seeks to repair this breach through a message designed to renew and strengthen the peoples feeling that God is committed to the cove-nantal relationship with Israel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-43
Number of pages8
JournalScandinavian Journal of the Old Testament
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2014


  • Accusations
  • Covenant
  • Dispute
  • Form
  • Genre
  • Malachi
  • Question-answer format
  • Rebuke


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