Author and His Times
Haggai prophecies over a four month period, in Jerusalem, after the exile and restoration (520 BC). After 50 years of exile, YHWH had stirred King Cyrus of Persia to commission and fund the rebuilding of the Temple. The first remnant returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel’s leadership, yet quickly diverted their attention away from the Temple construction and toward the building of their own private homes. 19 years have passed, Darius now rules Persia, Zerubbabel still lacks the power and influence to rally Judah to the reconstruction, Haggai and Zechariah enter the picture to push heavily for the rebuilding of the temple, Ezra and Nehemiah are still decades away from coming. Haggai was successful in inspiring them to start the reconstruction; Zechariah’s voice was needed to help them reach the finish line in 516 BC.
Haggai’s love for the Temple has led many to believe he is an old prophet that saw the temple before the 586 BC destruction. Haggai also pushes against spiritual apathy, showing that the restoration is not something for the Jews to simply ride out – YHWH will wait for covenant obedience before fulfilling promises. He connects the current draught to a covenant curse for unfaithfulness.
I. (1) Disappointed with Promised Prosperity
II. (2.1-19) Disappointed with Kingdom Glory
III. (2.20-23) Disappointed while waiting for the Promised King
I. (1.1-11) Covenant Curses (8/29/520BC – first day of the lunar month; during the New Moon festival; a time when grain was fully mature)
II. (2.1-9) Encouragement to Continue Building (10/17/520BC – end of Israel’s Feast of Tabernacles harvest festival)
III. (2.10-19) Covenant Blessings (12/18/520BC – during the growing season for spring harvest)
IV. (2.20-23) Encouraging Zerubbabel (12/18/520BC – during the growing season for spring harvest)
Written in rhythmic prose instead of poetic form. Most of the oracles are carried through questions. This a great book for turning you toward obedience when wrestling with disappointments. It could also serve as revival literature.
How to Read It
Look for repeated phrases. Make a connection between oracle 1 & 3 and 2 & 4. Read Ezra 1-6 for background to Haggai’s message. Since Haggai’s central message is the rebuilding of the temple, try to recall the identity, worship, and presence of YHWH that they had in the old temple. The dates of the oracles show that the oracles were delivered in “off season,” giving them little excuse for not taking to the Temple work.