What Is the Last Book of the Old Testament?

The Old Testament makes up the first two-thirds of the Christian Bible. It primarily tells the story of how God chose and used the nation of Israel to be his instrument of redemption to save people from all races, languages, and cultures from sin. Many people know that Genesis is the first book of the Old Testament, which makes them curious about the last book.

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. It has four chapters and 55 verses. Malachi takes place about 400 before Jesus Christ. Named for its author, who was a prophet, the thirty-ninth book of the Hebrew Bible teaches readers that one day God will reward his followers and judge his enemies.

When did Malachi write his book? Who were his original readers? How does Malachi 1:4 describe God, and how does that theme manifest throughout the book? What powerful rebukes do readers find in the book? What happened between Malachi and the arrival of Jesus Christ? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also, see Are There 46 Books in the Old Testament? to learn more.

Book of Malachi
Why was kingship relevant to Malachi’s audience? See below

The Message of Malachi

Malachi is part of the prophetic literature of the Old Testament, which comprises the last 17 books of the collection. Most scholars date the book to around 430 B.C. Malachi’s original readers were Jews who were returning to the Promised Land after being in exile for two generations.

Malachi served God in the era after Haggai and Zechariah, who have Old Testament books named after them. He was also a contemporary of Nehemiah, whose book appears in the historical section of the Old Testament. Because Nehemiah and Malachi had overlapping ministries, their books have similar themes.

The Last 5 Books of the Old Testament
(35) Habakkuk
(36) Zephaniah
(37) Haggai
(38) Zechariah
(39) Malachi

The Great King

The book of Malachi proclaims that God is a great King. Malachi 1:4 reads, “Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.” (ESV, emphasis added)

The kingship of God is a Bible-wide theme. In the context of Israel’s post-exile life, God’s people had recently been released from living under non-Israelite rulers. Then, when they returned to the Promised Land, some residents didn’t want them there, making life difficult for them.

Remembering that God is a great king helped the Israelites believe in his sovereignty over the nations. Zechariah, who ministered in the same era, also proclaimed this message.

For example, Zechariah 14:9 reads, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day, the Lord will be one and his name one.” (ESV, emphasis added).

As king, God will judge his enemies

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.” (Malachi 3:1-2, ESV)

As king, God will reward his people

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 4:2, ESV)

Also, see Old and New Testament: Compared to learn more.

Book of Malachi
Why does Malachi rebuke Israel? See below

The Message and Outline of Malachi

Malachi has four chapters and 55 verses, most of which contain corrections for the Israelites. For example, he corrects the people’s doubt of God’s love (1:1-5), the priests for unacceptable worship (1:6-2:9), and men for dishonorable marriages (2:10-16).

Then, after he warns them about God’s coming judgment (2:17-3:5), he rebukes them for robbing God (3:6-12) and for speaking arrogantly against God (3:13-15).

God then promises to remember the faithful. Malachi 3:17 reads, “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.” (ESV)

Outline of Malachi
1. The Six Disputes ( 1:1⁠–⁠3:18 )
a. The Lord’s Love for Israel ( 1:1⁠–⁠5 )
b. The Polluted Offerings and Priesthood ( 1:6⁠–⁠2:9 )
c. Judah’s Unfaithfulness ( 2:10⁠–⁠16 )
d. The Coming Day of Judgment ( 2:17⁠–⁠3:5 )
e. Robbing God ( 3:6⁠–⁠12 )
f. The Book of Remembrance ( 3:13⁠–⁠18 )
2. The Day of the Lord ( 4:1⁠–⁠6 )

The last chapter of Malachi promises destruction for God’s enemies and reward for his people. Malachi 4:2 reads, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” (ESV)

Also, see How Many Chapters Are in the Old Testament? to learn more.

Malachi Holy Bible
What happened between the Old and New Testaments? See below

Between Malachi and Jesus Christ: A Timeline

Malachi ministered during the Persian period between 410 and 330 B.C. Most New Testament scholars estimate that Mary gave birth to Jesus sometime between 4-6 B.C.

The Hellenistic Period

334-323Alexander the Great conquers the known world
323Alexander dies
320Ptolemy I of Egypt conquers Jerusalem
311Seleucus of Syria conquers Babylon
226Antiochus III of Syria conquers the Promised Land
198Antiochus I defeats Egypt
175-164Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) rules Syria

The Hasmonean Period

166-160Judas Maccabeus is leader
160-143Jonathan is high priest
142-134Simon is high priest
134-104John Hyrcanus I expands Israel’s borders
103Aristobulus rules
102-76Alexander Janneus rules
63Pompey invades the Promised Land

The Roman Period

63-40Hyrcanus II leads, but under Roman rule
40-37Parthians conquer Jerusalem
37Herod becomes the ruler of the Promised Land
19Herod starts to build the temple
6-4Mary gives birth to Jesus
4Herod dies
4Archelaus success Herod

Also, see Who Wrote the New Testament? to learn more.

[1] NIV Study Bible
[2] Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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