Paul D. Hanson writes: "Though undated, the book of Malachi can be placed with confidence in the first half of the fifth century B.C. The high hopes connected with the era of the restored Temple reflected in the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah clearly have been shattered. The book describes a priesthood that has degenerated into practices violating the laws regulating ritual sacrifice and that is lax in its responsibility of guiding and teaching the people. And the effects of degeneration and laxity are apparent throughout the land: people are reneging on their tithes; intermarriage is calling into question the identity of the Jewish community; and the day laborers, widows, orphans, and sojourners are suffering oppression. Nehemiah, whose activity in Judah began in 445 B.C., focused his reform efforts on ending intermarriage (Neh. 10:28-30), restoring the practices of honest tithing (10:32, 38-39) and of proper ritual (10:33-37), and ending exploitation of the poor (5:1-13). It is plausible to see Malachi as active shortly before the debut of Nehemiah. Thus, the book may be placed in the reign of Xerxes I (486-464 B.C.), when the Persians were experiencing their first stinging defeats by Greek armies. At this time, Judah was a vassal state of the Persians, living under a non-Davidic governor appointed by the Persians (Mal. 1:8), and may have been searching the international conflicts of the time for signs of divine intervention." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 753)
Jay G. Williams writes: "Certainly, however, a date in the fifth century seems appropriate, for the author clearly seems to be speaking to a discouraged and somewhat doubting people. The prophet warns them, not of their idolatry, but of their failure to perform the cultic rite properly. He particularly censures the priests for offering in sacrifice blemished animals (1:66), for giving poor instruction to the people (2:8), for acting faithlessly toward the brides of their youth (2:14-15). Little is said in the Torah and Prophets about divorce. Malachi, however, expresses God's hate of divorce (2:16) and thus seems to set the stage for Jesus' rather radical words concerning the subject (Mark 10:11, Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-12). Malachi, like Ezra and Nehemiah, also criticizes the taking of foreign wives (2:11), though this may refer to the providing of a foreign goddess as a consort for Yahweh (cf. the Elephantine papyri)." (Understanding the Old Testament, pp. 260-261)
Ralph L. Smith writes: "The style of the book of Malachi is that of disputations. Some have called it 'discussions.' Others call it 'Socratic,' or 'catechetical,' or question and answer style. But dispute is probably the best word to use to characterize the style. The disputation style is not new or unique to Malachi. Mic 2:6-11 is a classical example of Micah's dispute with the false prophets. Jeremiah had his disputes with his contemporaries (2:23-25, 29-32) and the false prophet (28:1-11; 29:24-32). Admittedly the form of the disputation passages is more standardized than that in previous passages. The prophet or Yahweh makes a statement containing a general premise: 'I have loved you, says Yahweh'; 'a son honors his father and a servant his Lord.' Each premise seems to be an indictment of Israel's failure at that point. Israel has failed to understand that God still loves her; that God expects honor, fear, and faithfulness. In each dispute the people ask, 'Wherein have we done, or not done what is charged?' (1:2, 6; 2:10, 14, 17; 3:7, 13). Then the prophet or Yahweh marshalls overwhelming evidence of Israel's guilt. But Malachi has a pastoral concern for the people. The major thrust of the book is love, comfort, assurance, and hope." (Micah-Malachi, p. 300)
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