The Book of Haggai
We know next to nothing about Haggai, except that he was a prophet to Zerubbabel and to Joshua (1:1).
Interestingly, the name Haggai could mean ‘my festal one’ (Rydelnik 2014:1405) or refer to a ‘feast’ or ‘feast of the LORD’ (Fruchtenbaum 2005:3; Constable 2017:1). This is quite appropriate, considering that the LORD said through Haggai that the Jews must complete the rebuilding of the temple (1:8-9, 14). Once the temple was completed, the feasts of the LORD could again be kept. As one of the three post-exilic prophets (with Zechariah and Malachi), it is not impossible that Haggai was born on a day of one of the feasts of the LORD.
Haggai dates his ministry in detail. It started on the 1st day of the 6th month in the 2nd year of Darius, the king of Persia (1:1). About 24 days later, the building of the temple commenced (1:15). Haggai delivered a second message on the 21st day of the 7th month in the 2nd year of Darius (2:1). A third message was delivered on the 24th day of the 9th month in the 2nd year of Darius to the priests in Israel (2:10) — and a fourth and last message on the same day to Zerubbabel (2:20). After about 4 or so months, the ministry of Haggai was completed. The book must have been compiled shortly thereafter (Rydelnik 2014:1405). The ministry of Haggai occurred between August/September to December 520 B.C.
The structure of Haggai can be arranged per the chronological markers of the book. The outline proposed by Merrill (2011:479-480) is shown below:
1. Rebuilding the temple 1:1-15
a. Introduction and setting 1:1
b. Exhortation to rebuild 1:2-11
c. Response of God’s people 1:12-15
2. The glory to come 2:1-9
a. Reminder of the past 2:1-3
b. The presence of the Lord 2:4-5
c. Outlook for the future 2:6-9
3. The promised blessing 2:10-19
a. Present ceremonial defilement 2:10-14
b. Present judgement and discipline 2:15-19
4. Zerubbabel the chosen one 2:20-23
a. Divine destruction 2:20-22
b. Divine deliverance 2:23
Locale, Historical Context and Audience
There is no doubt that Haggai ministered in Jerusalem, because this is where the original temple stood and where it was rebuilt (cf. 2:3). After the Medo-Persian kingdom overthrew the Babylonian kingdom, Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to the land of Israel in about 538 B.C. About 50 000 Jews returned to Jerusalem and the land of Israel shortly thereafter (Ezra 2:64-65). In Jerusalem, they restored the altar, began offering sacrifices and laid the foundation to rebuild the temple (Ezra 3:1, 8-13). But Gentiles who also lived in Jerusalem opposed this work (Ezra 4:24). For about sixteen years or so, that which this Jewish remnant came to do, namely to build the house of the LORD (Ezra 1:2), stood still. Haggai therefore ministered to the remnant of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.
Theme, Purpose and Conclusion
It is this remnant who is told to stop focusing on their own panelled houses and rather rebuild the temple (1:4, 8). This Jewish remnant were under the conditional Law of Moses: when they started to obey God, blessings would follow (2:19). But if they continued to ignore the rebuilding of the temple, their wallets would still have holes in it (1:6), their lands would not be fruitful (1:6a, 10), and they would eat and drink but not have their fill (1:6). According to Rydelnik (2014:1405), God calls these Jews not only to ‘renew their walk with the Lord by rebuilding the temple and worshipping the Lord in purity’, but also to ‘force Israel to confront their spiritual indifference and renew their commitment so that they might once again receive God’s blessing’. Such blessing will eventually be realised in fullness after the LORD of hosts has, ‘once more, in a little while, shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land’ (2:6, 21). During the millennium, the Son of David will rule over the chosen nation and all the other nations of the earth — and the LORD of hosts will fill the temple with glory (cf. 2:7, 22).
Constable, T.L., 2017, Notes on Haggai, 2017 edition.
Fruchtenbaum, A.G., 2005, The Book of Haggai, Ariel Ministries, San Antonia. Available at http://www.arielc.org/mbs/mbs089-pdf.html
Merrill, E.H., 2011, ‘The Book of Haggai’, in E.H. Merrill, M.F. Rooker & M.A. Grisanti, The World and the Word, pp. 478-482, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville.
Rydelnik, M. 2014, ‘Haggai’, in M. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (eds.), The Moody Bible Commentary, pp. 1405-1412, Moody Publishers, Chicago.
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