Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Malachi's Structure

"Malachi is comprised of a super scription and six prophetic disputation speeches, the last of which may also contain a summary challenge related to the message of the book as a whole."  (p. 1247)

The disputation (more fully, rhetorical disputation speech form has four elements: assertion, questioning, response, and implication.  (p. 1248)

It becomes evident when one studies the structure of Malachi that its disputations are arranged chiastically: the first disputation is comparable to the sixth disputation, the second to the fifth, and the third to the fourth.  The chiastic arrangement of the book represents a careful, intentional pairing of the various disputations.  (p. 1250)

Superscription:  "The burden of the Word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi."

1st Disputation: God distinguishes between the good and wicked.
1.2a Assertion by Yahweh:  "I have loved you."
1.2b Questioning by Israel:  "How have you loved us?"
1.2c-4 Response: (1) Yahweh's alliance with Israel and enmity with Edom
                                (2) the desolation of Edom
                                (3) futility curse on Edom's desire to rebuild
1.5 Implication: Israel will learn that Yahweh is not a limited territorial deity.

          2nd Disputation:  God will not bless your disrespect.
          1.6a-b Assertion by Yahweh:  "Where is the honor/respect due me?
          1.6c/7b Questioning by Israel:  "How have we despised your name?" / "How have we polluted the altar?"
          1.7a/1.c-8 Response: "By polluting my offering" / "By despising the LORD's table and offering defective animals."
          1.8b-2.9  Implication:  "The priests will be punished for their disobedience."   

                    3rd Disputation:  The Lord is the witness to Judah's unfaithfulness.
                    2.10-13  Assertion by Yahweh: "Covenant is profaned by being faithless to one another."
                   2.14a  Questioning by Israel:  "Why"
                    2.14b  Response:  "Yahweh is the covenant witness."
                    2.15-16  Implication:  "Take heed to your spirit."
                    4th Disputation:  The Lord is the witness to Judah's unfaithfulness.
                    2.17a  Assertion by Yahweh: "You have wearied the LORD."
                   2.17b  Questioning by Israel: "How?"
                    2.17c  Response: With two sayings: "All who do evil are good in the sight of the LORD." and "Were is the God of justice?"
                    3.1-5  Implication:  "Yahweh will judge and justice will be restored."

          5th Disputation:  God will not bless your disrespect.  
          3.6-7  Assertion by Yahweh: "People must return to Yahweh."
          3.7a  Questioning by Israel: "How can we return?"
          3.8a  Response:  "Should a person rob God?"
          3.8b  Questioning by Israel: "How have we robbed you?"
          3.9-12  Response and Implication:  "By shorting the tithes you miss God's blessing."

6th Disputation:  God distinguishes between the good and wicked.
3.13a  Assertion by Yahweh: "Your words have been harsh with me."
3.13b  Questioning by Israel: "What did we say?"
3.14-15  Response: "Serving God is useless.  Evildoers prosper."
3.16-4.6  Implication:  "There will be a renewal and the Day of Yahweh reward the wicked and righteous."

This post is largely the observations of Douglas Stuart in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary