🔼The name Malachi: Summary
- My Messenger, Messenger Of Yah / Angelic, Angel Of The Lord
- From (1) the noun מלאך (mal'ak), messenger, and (2) the postfix י (y), "my" or adjectival or יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
🔼The name Malachi in the Bible
It's not wholly clear whether Malachi is a personal name or not, but probably not, even though the Book of Malachi was named after it.
The term מלאכי (malachi) occurs in Malachi 1:1 and again in Malachi 3:1, which has prompted commentators to assume that this was the name of the author. Others surmise that the Book of Malachi is really anonymous, and that the occurrences of the term מלאכי (malachi), or "My Messenger" refers to the guiding Messenger who has guided Israel since her trek through the wilderness (Exodus 14:19, 23:20). Jesus would later associate Israel's guiding Messenger to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:10).
The term מלאכי (malachi), when it refers to Israel's protecting Messenger, occurs in Exodus 23:23 and 32:34 and probably also in Isaiah 42:19. Also note the rather high density of my-words in the Book of Malachi that מלאכי (malachi) is part of:
🔼Etymology of the name Malachi
The [pseudo-] name Malachi comes from the noun מלאך (mal'ak), messenger, which in turn comes from the verb לאך (la'ak), to act masterly or deal masterly with:
The verb לאך (la'ak) means to transpose one's will, purpose or intent via an agent. This verb isn't used in the Bible, but joined with the prefix מ (mem), which expresses agency, it yields the following nouns:
The feminine noun מלאכה (mela'ka) refers to an artistic work or an act of mastery, whether by merit of superior skill or by superior force. But ultimately, the noun מלאכה (mela'ka) reflects the nature of whoever masters it. It's this word that describes the "work" which the Creator completed on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2), which explains how his attributes and character can be observed through what was made (Romans 1:20). Strikingly, it's also the word for domesticated animals; animals that are mastered and which act according to the will of the master who drives them.
The masculine noun מלאך (mal'ak) means messenger, or someone who conveys the will of the master. The plural form of this word mostly refers to human messengers and the singular form mostly refers to divine messengers. In the latter case, translations use the word "angel," but it should be remembered that the original makes no distinction between kinds of messengers.
A similarity in form may have reminded of the noun מלך (melek), meaning king.
The letter י (yod) upon which our name ends, may either create an adjective (masterly, angelic), a possessive form (my messenger), or may even be a remnant of יה (Yah), which is short for יהוה, which is the name YHWH, or Yahweh. That in turn suggest that Malachi may in fact be short for Malachiah, which hence means Messenger of Yah, a.k.a. Angel of the Lord.
For a meaning of the name Malachi, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads My Messenger. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names sees Malachi as a contracted form of Malachiah and proposes Angel or Messenger Of The Lord. BDB Theological Dictionary does not explain our name but does list it under the verb לאך (la'ak).
For a long look at the psychological reality of angels, and such pressing matters as why they have wings, see our article on the Greek word αγγελος (aggelos), from whence comes our word "angel".