There are prophets who are introduced with their name, their father’s name, and their exact date. There are prophets who are introduced with their name, but their time period is uncertain. And then there’s Malachi:
אמר רב נחמן: מלאכי זה מרדכי, ולמה נקרא שמו מלאכי שהיה משנה למלך. מיתיבי: ברוך בן נריה, ושריה בן מעשיה ודניאל, ומרדכי בלשן, וחגי, זכריה ומלאכי כולן נתנבאו בשנת שתים לדריוש! תיובתא. תניא, אמר רבי יהושע בן קרחה: מלאכי זה עזרא, וחכמים אומרים: מלאכי שמו.
R’ Nachman said: Malachi is Mordechai. Why was he called Malachi? Because he was second to the king. [But it cannot be Mordechai, because] we have a source that says: “Baruch ben Neriah, Sarya ben Maasya, and Daniel, and Mordechai the linguist, Chagai, Zechariah, and Malachi, all prophesized in the second year of Daryavesh.”, [listing Mordechai and Malachi as separate people]. We learned: R’ Yehoshua ben Karcha said: Malachi is Ezra, and the sages said: Malachi is his name.” (Talmud Bavli, Megilla 15a)
In other words, the title Malachi, which literally means, “My Messenger”, might refer to :
- Mordechai (only if “Mordechai the Linguist” is a different person from Mordechai HaYehudi)
- A person named Malachi
It is clear, though, that he did prophecy during the same time as Zechariah and Chagai, at the beginning of the Second Temple era, shortly after it was rebuilt (~450 BCE). We can see this ourselves from the Text itself: he refers to the Persian “Pacha”, governor, as an example of someone that one might want to please. He uses the question-and-answer method which became popular during that era. And he describes an attitude toward the Temple which is diametrically different from the attitude that the prophets decried during the First Temple.
Malachi’s book is 3 chapters long. The first chapter is used for the Haftarah of Toldot, and the last chapter is the Haftarah of Shabbat HaGadol. This is quite a bit of exposure for a tiny book in Trei Asar (the Dozen “mini” books of Prophecy – many of whom are not used at all by the Haftarot).
His writing style is more straightforward and accessible to us than say, Yeshayahu or Hoshea. It is closer to Rabbinical Hebrew, the language of the Siddur and subsequently the Mishnah. Thus, it feels more familiar to us. Or, he’s just a really straightforward and clear writer.