AUTHOR AND TITLE

The book of Haggai contains messages delivered by the prophet Haggai, and thus it is reasonable to consider Haggai its author. The name Haggai, which means “festal,” promotes the conjecture that his birth occurred during a festival of Israel, or perhaps links his name with his message, anticipating the restoration of Israel’s great feasts within a restored temple. Nothing is known of his genealogy.

DATE

The word of the Lord comes to Haggai between late August and mid-December of 520 b.c. There is widespread scholarly consensus on these dates, though this does not preclude the possibility of editorial activity. If such editing did take place, it likely occurred before 515 b.c., when the temple was completed. The dates given are significant for their places in both the liturgical and agricultural calendars of Judah (see notes on 1:1; 1:15b–2:1; 2:10).

DATES OF THE ORACLES IN HAGGAI (ALL IN 520 B.C.)

OracleReferenceDate
First1:11st day of 6th month (Aug. 29)
Second1:1524th day of 6th month (Sept. 21)
Third2:121st day of 7th month (Oct. 17)
Fourth2:1024th day of 9th month (Dec. 18)
Fifth2:2024th day of 9th month (Dec. 18)

THEME

The restoration of the Lord’s house by the people of God will mediate God’s presence.

PURPOSE, OCCASION, AND BACKGROUND

Haggai motivates the leaders (Zerubbabel and Joshua) and the people of God to consider their current economic and spiritual circumstances and to renew their efforts to complete the work of temple restoration.

The historical setting of the book is in the sixth century b.c. among the returned exiles from the Babylonian captivity. The Persian ruler Cyrus the Great (559–530 b.c.) captured Babylon in 539. His edict in 538 b.c. permitted the return of Jews to Jerusalem so that they might rebuild the temple (Ezra 1–2). Initial work stalled, however, when opposition arose (Ezra 3:1–4:5).

The events within the book of Haggai take place during the reign of Darius I (522–486 b.c.), a general who rose to power following the death of Cyrus’s son Cambyses (530–522). The specific mention of the “second year of Darius” (Hag. 1:1) places the book firmly in the year 520 b.c. Darius’s support was vital for the completion of the temple (Ezra 5–6).

KEY THEMES

1. The restoration of God’s house. Temple restoration highlights the Lord’s desire to renew a covenant relationship with his people, characterized by his presence (1:13; 2:4–5). A decaying temple signifies a decaying relationship and brings defilement rather than holiness to the people (2:14).

2. The prophetic word is the divine Word. The divine message comes “by the hand of Haggai” (1:1, 3; 2:1, 10), is characterized by “thus says the Lord” (1:2, 5, 7; 2:6, 11), is a message “to Haggai” (2:20), is characterized by “declares the Lord” (1:9, 13; 2:4 [3x], 8, 9, 14, 17, 23 [3x]), is the “voice of the Lord their God” (1:12), and is the “Lord’s message” (1:13).

3. The Lord is sovereign. The phrase “Lord of hosts” occurs 14 times in these 38 verses (see 1:2). The Lord gives the divine word, controls the fortunes of his people (1:9; 2:17, 19) and nations (2:6–8), directs nature (1:10), motivates his people to action (1:14; 2:4), and establishes and deposes kingdoms (2:20–23).

4. The people must work. A restored house will bring pleasure and glory to the Lord (1:8) and convey blessing to the people (2:19), but there is work to be done. Physical labor (1:14) is urged in the form of numerous imperatives (1:7–8; 2:4–5). But there is also “heart” work to be done, as evidenced by the call to consider past experience in light of the present inaction (1:5–7; 2:15–19).

5. The restoration of David’s house. Undoubtedly Zerubbabel, the heir of David (see note on 1:1), is promised an elevated status (2:23). The Lord, who had taken off the “ring” of the Davidic house (Jer. 22:24–27), now promises to wear it once again. As in the OT (2 Samuel 7; Ps. 2:6), the NT understanding inextricably unites king and temple. It is only as the temple is rebuilt (Matt. 26:61; 27:40; John 2:18–22) that Christ Jesus, the Davidic heir, is installed as the messianic King (Rom. 1:1–4), thus fulfilling the promises to Zerubbabel (Matt. 1:1, 12–13; Luke 3:27).

HISTORY OF SALVATION SUMMARY

After the exile, the Lord is renewing his promises to his people and calls on them to finish rebuilding the temple so that he might be with them and fulfill his promises to bless the whole world through them (2:9), particularly through the Messiah from the house of David (2:23). (For an explanation of the “History of Salvation,” see the Overview of the Bible. See also History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ.)

LITERARY FEATURES

Although the book of Haggai falls within the general category of prophecy, it is not a typical prophetic book. It is written in prose instead of the customary poetry. Although there are predictions of promised blessing, there are no oracles of judgment in the usual sense. Instead, God simply calls the nation’s attention to its low ebb, as though judgment had already occurred. There are also intermittent golden-age visions, as well as a narrative episode (1:12–15). By means of a specific instance (the rebuilding of the temple), the book of Haggai is a relevant and timeless book on the need to put God’s work first in one’s life. For the prophet’s society, rebuilding the temple would be the visible sign of the people’s determination to put God first.

JERUSALEM AT THE TIME OF HAGGAI

c. 520 b.c.

Haggai prophesied to the people of Jerusalem after they had returned from Babylon in 538 b.c. and before they had rebuilt the temple in 515. The city of Jerusalem lay in ruins, the walls and the temple having been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 b.c. Within a year after returning from Babylon, the people had laid the foundation for the new temple, but by Haggai’s time they had still not completed it. Haggai, together with Zechariah, called upon the people to stop focusing on their own economic well-being and complete the temple.

Jerusalem at the Time of Haggai

OUTLINE

  1. Introduction: Reluctant Rebuilders (1:1–2)
  2. Characters (1:1)
  3. Context (1:2)
  4. Consider Your Ways: Fruitless Prosperity (1:3–12)
  5. Work without satisfaction (1:3–11)
  6. General response: obedience and fear (1:12)
  7. Promise and Progress (1:13–15a)
  8. God’s promise (1:13)
  9. Specific response: work begins (1:14–15a)
  10. The Former and Latter Glory of This House (1:15b–2:9)
  11. Comparing past and present (1:15b–2:3)
  12. Acting based on the past (2:4–5)
  13. An image of God’s house restored (2:6–9)
  14. Consider Your Ways: Holiness and Defilement; Repentance and Blessing (2:10–19)
  15. Analogy: holiness and defilement (2:10–14)
  16. Consider life before restoration began: you did not turn (2:15–17)
  17. Consider life since restoration began: I will bless (2:18–19)
  18. Zerubbabel: The Signet Ring (2:20–23)
  19. Destruction upon kingdoms (2:20–22)
  20. An image of David’s house restored (2:23)

HAGGAI

CHAPTER 1

1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,

2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.

3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,

4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?

5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.

6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

7 ¶ Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.

8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.

9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.

11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.

12 ¶ Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.

13 Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.

14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,

15 In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

CHAPTER 2

1 In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying,

2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,

3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?

4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:

5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.

6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;

7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.

8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.

9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.

10 ¶ In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,

11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,

12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.

13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.

14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.

15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD:

16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty.

17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.

18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it.

19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.

20 ¶ And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,

21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;

22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.

23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.

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