(hag' gah ee). Personal name of a sixth century prophet meaning, “festive” and of the book preserving his preaching. Compared to most of the writing prophets, we have very little information on the personal life of Haggai. Haggai has no genealogy. The reason for the missing genealogy is not clear, but it may be that the author wanted to focus on what Haggai said. Thus, it may reflect a change in style of prophetic reporting.
The book consists of a series of addresses by Haggai together with the results of his work. The specific historical details presented makes possible exact dating of the book between the sixth and the ninth month of the year 520 B.C. The final form of the book may have been the work of someone other than the prophet who put the collection together.
When Cyrus took over Babylon in 538 B.C. and established the kingdom of Persia, the Hebrews came under a Persian governor. Permission was given for the exiles to return and restore their temples. After the death of Cyrus, and of his son Cambyses, Darius became ruler and continued the benevolent policies of Cyrus. Then Darius appointed Zerubbabel as governor with the specific responsibility of resuming work on the Temple, begun earlier by Shesh-bazzar. At first, it appears that Judah was part of the administrative district of Samaria, but the appointment of Zerubbabel may have represented a move in the direction of autonomy for Judah which became a reality in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah a few decades later.
Apparently the adjustments required of the returning exiles were so difficult that rebuilding their own homes and the Temple at the same time put a strain on their resources. They despaired of ever restoring the Temple to its former glory. Work on the Temple ceased. Haggai, along with Zechariah, helped Zerubbabel gain the support and help he needed from the returning exiles to carry out his assigned task. Haggai may have viewed the restoration of order by Darius and the appointment of Zerubbabel as a sign of the end of Gentile rule and preparation for the messianic kingdom.
The Book of Haggai is very important for several reasons. One is that he laid the foundations of later Judaism on which Christianity was to build. Another was the stress on the linking of worship and work, a characteristic feature of Jesus' teaching and of the New Testament in general. Also, he revived hope for the future in a dejected community. Finally, the book provides important historical data on the post-exilic period where information is scanty. Some scholars think he neglected the moral element, but he really stressed a return to the basics of worship and a close relationship between worship and work. Both are important.
The book consists of five short addresses and a description of the results of Haggai's efforts to persuade his people to resume work on the Temple. The recipients of Haggai's message included Zerubbabel and Joshua, the high priest. Haggai suggested how they should respond to the excuses people were making for not resuming work on the Temple (Haggai 1:2). Haggai's answer was that if it was right for them to rebuild their own houses, it was also right for them to rebuild the Temple (Haggai 1:3-4). Haggai noted that in rebuilding their own houses they had done well, but they were still not happy. His diagnosis was that they had neglected their spiritual lives. He said the way to correct their neglect was to rebuild the Temple (Haggai 1:3-11). In response they resumed work on the Temple.
In the second speech, Haggai assured them of the Lord's presence and approval (Haggai 1:13), and the Lord stirred the spirit of both leaders and people as they worked together (Haggai 1:14-15).
In the third address, given to both the leaders and the people (Haggai 2:1-2), Haggai asked the older members of the community to recall the glory of the former Temple and thus to stir the new generation to new enthusiasm. He promised that God would bring treasures from other nations to make the splendor of the new Temple even greater than the former one (Haggai 2:6-9).
The fourth address (Haggai 2:10-19) returns to the theme of the first address in linking worship, work, and the blessings of God. The point seems to be that carelessness in observing accepted rules reflected a lack of seriousness in their purpose. The results were that they robbed themselves of the full measure of God's blessing.
The final speech, delivered the same day as the previous one (Haggai 2:20-23), was addressed only to Zerubbabel. It announced the imminent overthrow of the kingdoms of the world and the role that Zerubbabel would play in the triumphant victory of God's kingdom on earth.
The reading of Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles may be helpful for understanding Haggai's time despite the fact that they were written much later.
I. God's People Must Reconsider Materialistic Priorities in Light of God's Call (Haggai 1:1-15).
A. Materialistic pride and greed must not cause procrastination in fulfilling God's priority tasks (Haggai 1:1-4).
B. God withholds blessing and fertility from a selfish people who do not glorify Him (Haggai 1:5-11).
C. Faithful leadership and God's presence can motivate God's people to carry out His priorities (Haggai 1:12-15).
II. God's People Must Reconsider Priorities in Light of God's Promises and Power (Haggai 2:1-9).
A. Comparisons with past achievements may discourage God's people from doing God's work (Haggai 2:1-3).
B. Trust in God's promises and power to provide every need encourages His people to continue His work (Haggai 2:4-9).
III. God's People Must Reconsider the Priority of a Pure Life (Haggai 2:10-19).
A. Impure people produce only more impurity (Haggai 2:10-14).
B. God does not bless an impure people who do not repent (Haggai 2:15-17).
C. God will bless His attentive people in the future (Haggai 2:18-19).
IV. God's People Must Reconsider God's Power to Overcome Opposition (Haggai 2:20-23).
A. God will overcome all opposition (Haggai 2:20-22).
B. God will empower His chosen servant (Haggai 2:23).
E. Earl Joiner