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by Editor - Joseph S. Exell
The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic
ON THE BOOKS OF THE
By the REV. JAMES WOLFENDALE
Author of the Commentaries on Deuteronomy and Chronicles
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
LONDON AND TORONTO
ON THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
WITH CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES, INDEXES, ETC., BY VARIOUS AUTHORS
THE PROPHET. The name Haggai means my feast; given, according to Cocceius, in anticipation of the joyous return from exile. He was probably one of the Jewish exiles who returned under Zerubbabel, the civil head of the people, and Joshua the high priest, 536 B. C., when Cyrus (actuated by the striking prophecies as to himself (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1), granted them their liberty, and furnished them with the necessaries for restoring the temple (2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:1; Ezra 2:2) [Fausset]. All we know of his personal history is gathered from his book (ch. Haggai 1:1; Haggai 2:1; Haggai 2:10; Haggai 2:20 : cf. Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14). The traditions of Jewish writers seem to have no evidence to support them.
THE TIME. He is the tenth in order of the twelve minor prophets, and the first of the three who prophesied after the Captivity. He was preceded by Zechariah by about two months, and by Zephaniah 100 years. “His book itself vouches for the fact that he prophesied in the reign of Darius Hystaspis, who ascended the Persian throne B. C. 521. Having been interrupted in building the temple by an interdict, which the Samaritans obtained from Smerdis the usurper, the Jews became in some measure indifferent to the work; and when Darius came to the throne, an event which must have deprived the prohibition of all authority, instead of vigorously recommencing their labours, the more influential persons among them pretended that, as the prophecy of the 70 years applied to the temple as well as to the captivity in Babylon, and they were only yet in the 68th year, the proper time for rebuilding it had not arrived, and gave their whole attention to the erection of splendid mansions for themselves” [Henderson].
THE BOOK. Consists of five addresses, which were delivered at successive periods within the short space of three months. They are very brief, and supposed to be only a summary or epitome of the original discourses. “The first discourse (chap. Haggai 1:1-11), is one of reproof, expostulation, and warning, being designed to arouse the people from their religious apathy, and, in especial, from their indifference to the condition of the temple, which was then lying desolate. The second discourse (Haggai 1:12-15), after a relation of the beneficial results of the first, holds out to them, in their returning obedience, the promise of God’s returning favour and aid in their work. The third discourse (ch. Haggai 2:1-9), evoked by the despondency that had begun to affect some of the people on account of the outward inferiority of the present temple, predicts for it a glory far transcending that of its predecessor, since the treasures of all nations were yet to adorn the Church of the Messiah, of which it was the representative. The fourth discourse (ch. Haggai 2:10-19), teaches them, from the principles of the Ceremonial Law, that no amount of outward religious observance can communicate holiness, or secure acceptance with God, and the restoration of his favour, the withdrawal of which had been so manifest in their late public and private distress. The fifth discourse assures the struggling community of their preservation in the midst of commotions which should destroy other nations, promising to its faithful rulers, represented by Zerubbabel, the special protection of their Covenant God” [Lange].
THE STYLE. Lacks the poetical qualities of the earlier prophecies, but is marked with passages of great vivacity and power, “to which, among other characteristics, the frequent use of the interrogation largely contributes (e. g. in chaps, Haggai 1:4; Haggai 1:9; Haggai 2:3; Haggai 2:12-13; Haggai 2:19). In addition to these more obvious characteristics, we can discern both rhetorical and grammatical peculiarities natural to the declining period of the Hebrew language and literature.” The style of Haggai is consonant with his messages: pathetic in exhortation, vehement in reproofs, elevated in contemplating the glorious future. The repetition of the same phrases (e. g. saith the Lord, or, the Lord of hosts (ch. Haggai 1:2; Haggai 1:5; Haggai 1:7), and thrice in one verse (ch. Haggai 2:4); so “the spirit” thrice in ch. Haggai 1:14) gives a simple earnestness to his style, calculated to awaken the solemn attention of the people, and to arouse them from apathy. Chaldaisms occur (ch. Haggai 2:3; Haggai 2:6; Haggai 2:16), as might have been expected in a writer who was so long in Chaldea. Parts are purely prose history; the rest is somewhat rhythmical and observant of poetic parallelism [Fausset]. There are references to Haggai in Old and New Testament (Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14; and Hebrews 12:20 : cf. Haggai 2:7-8; Haggai 2:22).
THE PURPOSE of the book is to exhort to the rebuilding of the temple, but the predictions relate to the Church of God in all ages, and should evoke and perpetuate the spirit of obedience and love to Divine ordinances. To revive the drooping spirits of all engaged in the work of God, a future transcendent glory is revealed which shall crown their labours and embrace all the kingdoms of the earth.
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany