Before we begin this narrative commentary, here is an aha moment to consider. We find in the Table of Contents of our Bibles that Malachi is listed as the last of the Old Testament books… BUT, it isn’t the last O.T. book written. It more likely is the Chronicles, if not Ezra. The original identity was simply The Chronicles, not the 1st and 2nd Chronicles. In the original Hebrew text, The Chronicles is put last in written Hebrew chronology. In the reorganized Christian bible, 1st and 2nd Chronicles has historical content, so it is listed with the other canonized historical O.T. books.
The last events in the Chronicles take place during the reign of Cyrus the Great, the Persian king whose forces had conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. Judeans shortly thereafter were released from Babylonian captivity. Sadly, only a few returned. We do not know who authored The Chronicles. It was divided into part one and two by those 70 Hebrew scribes who translated the original Hebrew O.T. into the Greek Septuagint. Ptolemy of Egypt ordered the translation. He wished that all could read the Old Testament. Greek was the common language for writing at that time. Few could translate Hebrew to Greek but trained Jewish priests could do so with incredible accuracy.
We do not know when Malachi lived or prophesied. This is part of some Bible-dating challenge. We can deduce by relating other passages and events in the Bible as to possible time periods. Malachi came on the scene after Haggai and Zechariah. His book is the last of the Minor Prophets and the last book of the English version of the Old Testament. He is one of the three post-exile prophets. The minor prophet books are listed together as are the historical books in the Christian Bible.
The original remnant of Judeans who returned from Babylonian captivity was in 536 B.C. under Zerubbabel’s leadership. This is 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar enslaved the first wave of Judeans in 606 B.C. On his third exploit in 586/7 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther present the life of Israel after the people’s return from their exile in Babylon. The book of Chronicles serves as a summary of the history of Israel. It begins with the genealogy of Adam and ends with Cyrus’ decree allowing the people to return to Canaan.
JIV CAUTION: Some history revisionists say the Babylonian captivity was only 50 years. 586 B.C. to 536 B.C. The first captives, including the likes of Daniel was during Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion in 606 B.C. 606 B.C. to 536 B.C = 70
Zerubbabel brought back 42,000 Judeans to Judah. Daniel had previously made a plea to Satrap or King Darius the Mede, who conquered Babylon, and Cyrus the Great of Persia for the release of the captive “Jews”. Daniel knew according to Jeremiah that Judean captivity was nearing the 70-year captivity mark. He calculated the captivity by studying Jeremiah. (Daniel 9:1-3, KJV) plus Daniel was part of the 606 B.C. captives taken. He knew his own Daniel lived into his 90’s.
King Cyrus of the Mede-Persian Empire along with Satrap/King Darius of the conquered Babylon agreed to the release of Babylonian captives. They were free to return to their homelands. Only a few returned. After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, Zerubbabel led a remnant of Judeans back to Judah. He was in the line and DNA of King David since he was a grandson of King Jehoiachin—the last king of Judah prior to the Babylonian conquest of Judah. Zerubbabel was born in Babylon thus his name Zerub-babel. Cyrus II (the Great) of Persia and King/satrap Darius of conquered Babylon soon there after released the “Judeans” to return home. They needed someone to be in charge. King Cyrus II appointed Zerubbabel to govern the returning Israelis of the Kingdom of Judah and the territory of Jerusalem. God had promised only a descendant of King David would sit on that throne. Zerubbabel was a descendent within the Davidic line. He was appointed governor, not king, over the Judean territories. We know nothing about his death, but he did rule until the Temple was rebuilt (Ezra 5, 6). Zerubbabel was an older contemporary of Nehemiah and Ezra who came later to finally get the Temple built.
The foundation for rebuilding the Temple was laid early on. Then Judeans tired of the job refocusing on building their own homes. Plus, were distracted by the harassing neighbors, mostly Samaritans. About 17 or 18 years later, only the foundation of the Temple and the alter were in place. Then the Lord raised up two prophets—Haggai and Zechariah. With the arrival and encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah, building of the Temple resumed…but only for a short while. Darius II was now king of Persia which included the conquered Babylon. This is not the same Darius the Mede who became ruler when Babylon first fell.
The first Darius was 62 years old [Daniel 5:31]; the Darius in Daniel of the Lion’s Den. He was appointed to rule over and reorganize the Babylonian Empire. He appointed 127 governing satraps over which Daniel was their chief. Darius the Mede was initially appointed as a temporary king in Babylon by the Persian ruler King Cyrus II aka: the Great.
After many years of nothing other than the Temple and alter foundations being laid, Haggai and Zechariah were raised up to nudge the Judeans back into completing the Temple. This was probably 17 or 18 years after Zerubbabel initially returned 45,000+ to Judah from Babylon.
Ezra did lead a much smaller constituency or band of Judeans back to Jerusalem with large amounts of gold and silver. He ran into issues with raiders, robbers, and anti-Semitism attitudes. Ezra 8:22 states:
“I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.”
AHAMOMENT: Ezra is credited with pulling the Old Testament writings together. Ezra-Nehemiah were originally one book. For the need-to-know Bible student, it is possible that Ezra also authored the Book of Nehemiah. The Septuagint and Vulgate identify the Book of Nehemiah as 2nd Ezra.
Around 450 to 445 B.C., some 80 years after the initial return of some Judeans with Zerubbabel, *Nehemiah, a cup bearer of King Artaxerxes, requested a leave of absence to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. This was the 20th year of King *Artaxerxes reign. The king granted his request. This is also after the time of Queen Esther.
*Nehemiah eventually replaced Zerubbabel as governor of Judah.
1. Persian king Artaxerxes, the son of King Xerxes aka: Ahasuerus, had a stepmother. Her name? Esther!
2. Some historians make Esther the queen-mother of Xerxes’s son, Artaxerxes, aka: Ahasuerus. If so, Esther was Artaxerxes wife, not Xerxes’. The fact is, Esther is either one or the other. This validates the Book of Esther and her cousin, Mordecai.
We at ahabiblemoments lean toward #2 being factual. In the Septuagint, the Book of Esther refers to this king as ‘Artaxerxes’ (Ancient Greek: Ἀρταξέρξης). This fits scenario #2. The Septuagint was written by 70 Jewish Rabbis under the direction of Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s great generals. This probability has more leverage than some later historical revisionist.
Wikipedia tries to change what the Bible and 70 Jewish scholars of the Septuagint say as factual. Both the latter sources say Ahasuerus was Artaxerxes. Know your Bible history before taking what Wikipedia states as the truth. This website tends to give just enough truth to entrap one into thinking all they say is fundamentally the truth. This simply is fake historical reporting. Revisionists!
For the sake of keeping things and events in order: (> means prior to the next name)
Zerubbabel> Haggai> Zechariah> Queen Esther> Ezra> Nehemiah [all post-exile]
Let’s continue with the chronology of events leading up to Malachi. With the assistance of Darius II after finding the original orders and decree of King Cyrus to the return of the Babylonian captives from Judah and build the Temple, he ordered the Temple to be completed. Some 60 years later by king Darius’s decree, Nehemiah is allowed to build the walls around Jerusalem. This was in the 6th year of the reign of King Darius II of Persia. Once the Temple was finished and dedicated, the prophet Haggai announced by prophecy that there will be an even greater Temple in the future. Some say this was the New Testament value-added temple features of King Herod. Some, including this commentary, see it as the Temple in which Jesus will ultimately set his throne after the End of Days. This will be the center of power during the millennial reign of 1,000 years.
Once the Zerubbabel Temple is built, there is no additional Bible or historical mention of Zerubbabel. This is where Ezra picks up the focus in Bible history. The flow of significant Persian Empire rulers to this point were Cyrus the Great, Cambyses II, Darius I, and now Artaxerxes (aka Ahasuerus). The original ruler over conquered Babylon upon the defeat of the Babylonians was a short-time ruler by the name of Darius the Mede. He was “appointed to rule Babylon” by king Cyrus the Great. Darius, a Mede general, was already 62 years of age at the time of his appointment. He knew Daniel.
Nehemiah’s prayer (Nehemiah 1), as was Daniel’s prayer (Daniel 9), petitioned God for the people to be released from Babylonian captivity with a confession of the sins of Israel. Both pleaded for the prosperity of their people. Nehemiah governed Judah for about 12 years before returning to the Persian land of Susa to again serve as the cup bearer of the king.
Summary: In Malachi’s time and as we narrate commentary on his four chapters in the Old Testament, about 100 years pass between the Zerubbabel-led return from Babylon and the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. Most if not all the original Judean returnees had died by then.
JIV NOTE: Since the name or word Malachi means messenger of the Lord, it is possible that this word is a title, not the real identity and name of the author of Malachi. In the entire Bible, the name or word Malachi is mentioned only once: in the first line of the Old Testament book that bears the name Malachi.
Rev. Dr. Jstark