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by Paul E. Kretzmann
The Book Of The Prophet Haggai
Concerning the prophet Haggai ("festive") we have no more definite information than that given in the superscription of his book and supported by Ezra 5:1, namely, that his activity is to be placed in the second year of Darius Hystaspes, which means that he prophesied from September to December of the year 520 B. C. To him, together with Zechariah, was entrusted the task of encouraging the returned exiles to continue the construction of the Temple, which, on account of the enmity of the Samaritans and the subsequent indolence of the people, had not progressed beyond the foundation and the erection of the altar of burnt offering. The activity of Haggai was successful. A new zeal took hold of the people, and they applied themselves to the task entrusted to them by the Lord with all diligence, so that the Temple was completed some four years later. Beyond these facts we know nothing about the person and the history of the prophet. The Book of Haggai consists of four messages, each one of which is headed by a notice giving the date of the particular revelation of the Lord. After rebuking the Jews on account of their indifference in the building of the Temple, the prophet adds a message of encouragement on account of the inferiority, as to outward splendor, of the second Temple. In the next paragraph the fact that building operations had once more commenced leads the prophet to sound a warning regarding a mere outward observance of the forms of religion, and the fourth message is addressed to Zerubbabel, as the representative of the people. The four messages thus concern the building of the Temple and the worship in the Temple and were apparently written down soon after their first proclamation. The style of Haggai is in agreement with his messages: pathetic in exhortation, vehement in reproach, elevated in contemplation of the glorious future, particularly that of the Messianic-period. Parts of the book are purely prose history; the rest is somewhat rhythmical, showing a fine poetic parallelism.
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24