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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Haggai


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HAGGAI . A prophet whose writings occupy the tenth place in the collection of the Minor Prophets.

1. The man and his work . The sphere of his activity was the post-exilic community, his ministry (so far as may be gathered from his writings) being confined to a few months of the second year of Darius Hystaspes (b.c. 520). His name is perhaps a short form of Haggiah ( 1 Chronicles 6:30 ), as Mattenai ( Ezra 10:33 ) is of Mattaniah ( Ezra 10:26 ), and may mean ‘feast of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ,’ though possibly it is merely an adjective signifying ‘festal’ (from hag ; cf. Barzillai from barzet ). According to late traditions, he was born in Babylon, and went up with Zerubbabel to Jerusalem, where he died. In his prophetic work he was associated with Zechariah ( Ezra 5:1 ; Ezra 6:14 ); and the names of the two are prefixed to certain Psalms in one or more of the Versions (to Psalms 137:1-9 in LXX [Note: Septuagint.] alone, to Psalms 111:1-10 (112) in Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] alone, to Psalms 125:1-5 ; Psalms 126:1-6 in Pesh. alone, to Psalms 146:1-10 ; Psalms 147:1-20 ; Psalms 148:1-14 in LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and Pesh., to Psalms 145:1-21 in LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] , and Pesh.).

His prophecies were evoked by the delay that attended the reconstruction of the Temple. The Jews, on returning to Palestine in the first year of Cyrus (536), at once set up the altar of the Lord (Ezra 3:3 ), and in the following year laid the foundation of the Temple ( Ezra 3:8-10 ). The work, however, was almost immediately suspended through the opposition of the Samaritans ( i.e. the semi-pagan colonists of what had once been the Northern Kingdom, 2 Kings 17:24-41 ), whose wish to co-operate had been refused ( Ezra 4:1-5 ); and, this external obstruction being reinforced by indifference on the part of the Jews themselves ( Haggai 1:4 ), the site of the Temple remained a waste for a period of 15 years. But in the second year of Darius (b.c. 520), Haggai, aided by Zechariah (who was probably his junior), exhorted his countrymen to proceed with the rebuilding; and as the result of his exertions, in the sixth year of Darius (b.c. 516) the Temple was finished ( Ezra 6:15 ).

2. The book . The prophecies of Haggai consist of four sections, delivered at three different times.

(1) Ch. 1, on the 1st day of the 6th month (Aug. Sept.), is the prophet’s explanation of the prevalent scarcity, which (like the famines mentioned in 2 Samuel 21:1-22 and 1 Kings 17:1-24 ; 1 Kings 18:1-46 ) is accounted for by human sin, the people being more concerned to beautify their own dwellings than to restore the house of the Lord. The admonition, coupled with a promise of Divine assistance, had its effect, and the work of reconstruction was renewed.

(2) Ch. Haggai 2:1-9 , on the 21st day of the 7th month (Sept. Oct.), has in view the discouragement experienced when the old men who had seen the glory of the first Temple contrasted with it the meanness of the second: the prophet declares that within a short while the wealth of the nations will he gathered into the latter (cf. Isaiah 60 ), and its splendour will eventually exceed that of its predecessor. Haggai’s anticipations were perhaps connected with the disturbances among the Persian subject States in the beginning of Darius’ reign. The downfall of the Persian rule, which they threatened, might be expected, like the previous overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus, to redound to the advantage of Israel.

(3) Ch. Haggai 2:10-19 , on the 24th of the 9th month (Nov. Dec.), is a further attempt to explain the reason of the continued distress, and to raise hopes of its removal. The people’s sacrifices and exertions cannot (it is contended) at once counteract the effects of their previous neglect, for the ruinous state of the Temple is a more penetrating source of pollution than holy things and acts are of sanctification; but henceforth the Lord’s blessing will attend them (cf. Zechariah 8:9-12 ).

(4) Ch. Haggai 2:20-23 , on the same day as the preceding, is an address to Zerubbabel, who in the impending commotion will be preserved by the Lord as a precious signet-ring (cf. Song of Solomon 8:6 , and contrast Jeremiah 22:24 ).

The Book of Haggai reflects the condition of its age, and offers a contrast to the earlier prophets in the absence of any denunciation of idolatry, the practice of which had been largely eradicated from the Jews of the Exile by their experiences. It resembles the prophecies of Zechariah and Malachi (both post-exilic) in laying more stress upon the external side of religion than do the pre-exilic writings. But, unlike the books of Zechariah and Malachi, it does not contain any rebuke of moral and social offences, but is devoted to the single purpose of promoting the rebuilding of the Temple, which was then essential to the maintenance of Israel’s religious purity. The style of Haggai is plain and unadorned, and is rendered rather monotonous by the reiteration of certain phrases (especially ‘saith the Lord of hosts’).

G. W. Wade.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Haggai'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/h/haggai.html. 1909.

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Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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