Book of Haggai


Authorship, date, and background Haggai, the author of this book, was probably born in Babylon during the captivity and returned to Jerusalem with the remnant in 539 - 538 B.C. The name Haggai is derived from a word meaning "festival," which suggests he may have been born at the time of some Israelite feast. Nothing is known about his family background nor is the name of his father given. He was a contemporary of Zechariah, with whom he shared the common goal to finish the rebuilding of the temple.

The Jewish remnant that returned from Babylon was small in number. Many of those who remained in Babylon had become well-to-do and preferred their present prosperity to an uncertain future in the land of their fathers had left in the captivity. Others had fallen away from their faith in the God of Abraham as a result of thee captivity. This meant that those who did return to the land had religious aspirations and were interested in the rebuilding of the temple which was central to their worship. Unfortunately they had a hard time at first. But when they prospered economically, their interests shifted from spiritual to material things at a time when they had done no more than finish laying the foundations of the temple. After that, further construction ceased for fifteen years, due in part to the evil intentions of their hostile neighbors.

Haggai's prophecies were given in the year 520 B.C. and consisted of four oracles spoken over a period of four months. They were addressed to the forty thousand immigrants who had returned to the land under the edict of King Cyrus of Persia after the fall of the Chaldean state. The return was led by Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest. Following Haggai's prophecies, the work on the temple was resumed in 520 B.C. and the construction of it was completed in 516 or 515 B.C.

Characteristics and content Haggai's first prophecy is directed toward the Jews who are building more elaborate homes while neglecting the temple. They are urged to rebuild the temple and are promised the help and blessing of God in material things if they meet their spiritual obligations. In the second message Haggai encourages Zerubbabel and Joshua concerning the presence of the Lord in their midst. He promises them that God will fill his new house with his glory and that its splendor will be greater than that of the first temple.

In the third oracle Haggai says God's people are unclean. Therefore, God is withholding his blessing from them because of their disobedience. If the people will repent and do what God wants, he will bless them and the earth will yield a bountiful harvest.

Haggai's last oracle is addressed to Zerubbabel, who is like a signet ring upon God's finger. He has been specially chosen by God for his work and God will honor him. But this will take place after God has shaken the heavens and the earth and overthrown and destroyed the strength of the kingdoms of the nations (2:22). Since these things did not happen at that time, they are to be regarded as awaiting fulfillment by David's descendants, of whom Zerubbabel is a representative.