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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Haggai

- Haggai

by Various Authors

THE BOOK OF HAGGAI

INTRODUCTION

The Prophet

Almost nothing is known about the prophet Haggai. His name can be translated "festal" and may be an abbreviation of some such name as "Haggiyah," which would mean "festival of the Lord." An ancient tradition suggests that Haggai was of priestly lineage, but there is nothing in the biblical references to confirm or deny this. His concern for the rebuilding of the Temple may have been only that of a layman inspired by the divine call. The records concerning Haggai give no certain information about whether he was among those who had seen the former glory of the house of God, but his concern for the rebuilding of the Temple suggests that he may have witnessed its destruction by the Chaldeans in 587 B.C. Since the prophecies of Haggai are limited to a brief period during the second year of Darius I, it has been guessed that the prophet was an old man and that he did not live to see the dedication of the rebuilt Temple some four years later.

The Composition of the Book

As is the case with the personal history of Haggai, so there is no certainty about the composition of the book. The prophetic words are concerned with God, the Temple, the "times," and the people addressed, never with the prophet. "I" in the book is the Lord, never the prophet. Without the brief introductory narrative portions, even the name of the prophet would be unknown. Two alternative methods of composition may be conjectured: (1) that the prophet himself prepared the entire book, writing in the third person and thus minimizing himself, or (2) that someone else, acquainted with the important work of the prophet, shortly after his ministry set down what he remembered of the prophet’s messages, together with the setting in which each was uttered. The second suggestion is preferable, since it is the more natural explanation of the third person narrative. The sketchy nature of the narrative passages suggests that the book was actually recorded very soon after the events took place, possibly at the actual dedication of the rebuilt Temple (in 516 B.C.; see Ezra 6:14-15), when recollections of the beginning of the project would appropriately be brought to mind.

Haggai’s Ministry

The purpose of Haggai’s ministry was clearly to stir his contemporaries to honor God through the rebuilding of the Temple. His words all bear on this subject and are concerned with other subjects — such as the hard times and the shaking of the nations — only as they are related to the reconstruction of the Temple.

The book’s purpose is to preserve the words of Haggai for others beyond his immediate contemporaries. But this purpose is not merely to honor the man or men responsible for the rebuilding of the Temple or to recount the progress of the project. The permanent message of the book is to be found in the interrelationship between the words of God and the conditions and responses of the people addressed, and may perhaps best be summed up in the briefest single utterance of God through the prophet, "I am with you, says the Lord" (1:13). It is for this assurance that the book has been preserved and included in the canon of the Old Testament. In the midst of the difficult times of an earlier day God spoke to his people and stirred them to honor him and thus to find blessing; at all times he is able and willing to be with his people and even to shake the nations on their behalf.

The Book of Haggai consists of a brief series of words "of the Lord" which came by Haggai the prophet to the returned exiles during the second year of Darius I, king of Persia. These words are set in a sketchy narrative which provides the reader with the month and day of each utterance and with an identification of the recipients of the divine message.

OUTLINE

The Hard Times in the Second Year of Darius. (Haggai 1:1-11)

God and the Rebuilt Temple. (Haggai 1:12 to Haggai 2:9)

The Coming Blessings. Haggai (Haggai 2:10-23)