Introduction to Haggai
Author and Date
The book of Haggai contains messages delivered by the prophet Haggai, and thus it is reasonable to consider Haggai its author. Nothing is known of his genealogy. The specific mention of the “second year of Darius” (1:1) places the book in the year 520 b.c.
Haggai ministered among the Jews who had returned to Judea after some 70 years of exile in Babylon. The Persian ruler Cyrus the Great captured Babylon in 539 b.c. In 538 he permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem so that they might rebuild the temple (Ezra 1–2). The work of rebuilding stalled, however, when opposition arose (Ezra 3:1–4:5). Haggai prophesied in an effort to motivate the people to renew their work of temple restoration.
The work of temple restoration highlights the Lord’s desire to renew a covenant relationship with his people (1:13; 2:4–5).
- The restoration of God’s house. A decaying temple signifies a decaying relationship with the Lord. It brings weakness rather than holiness to the people (2:14).
- The prophetic word is the divine Word. The prophecy is delivered “by the hand of Haggai” (1:1, 3; 2:1, 10; see 2:20) but it is God’s word (e.g., 1:2, 9, 12, 13).
- The Lord is sovereign. The phrase “Lord of hosts” occurs 14 times in the 38 verses of this short book (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 removes kingdoms (2:20–23).
- The people must work. A restored house will bring pleasure and glory to the Lord (1:8) and blessing to the people (2:19), but there is work to be done. Physical labor is urged (1:7–8; 2:4–5). But there is also “heart” work to be done (1:5–7; 2:15–19).
- The restoration of David’s house. Zerubbabel, the heir of David, is promised high status (2:23). The Lord, who removed the “ring” of the Davidic house (see Jer. 22:24–27), now promises that he will restore David’s house. The Messiah will come.
- Introduction: Reluctant Rebuilders (1:1–2)
- Consider Your Ways: Fruitless Prosperity (1:3–12)
- Promise and Progress (1:13–15a)
- The Former and Latter Glory of This House (1:15b–2:9)
- Consider Your Ways: Holiness and Defilement; Repentance and Blessing (2:10–19)
- Zerubbabel: The Signet Ring (2:20–23)
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. The walls and temple of Jerusalem had 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.