Haggai ~ “Festival”
Authorship and Audience
It is likely that Haggai wrote this book (see 1:1) with Israel as the intended audience.
Date and Historical Context
Based on passages like Haggai 1:1, 2:1, 2:10, and 2:20, we can date Haggai's four-month, recorded ministry to 520 BC. This was after Cyrus, a Persian King, had already allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland and build the temple. The work on the Temple had stalled due to opposition (see the book of Ezra 4 - 5); Haggai encourages the people to restart the building efforts. Around this same time, Darius investigates the complaint lodged by those opposed to the rebuilding of the temple (see Ezra 4:24 - 6:12) and ends up recommitting to the rebuilding of the temple.
Haggai fits nicely into the narrative of Ezra-Nehemiah. It answers the question: Why should Israel rebuild the temple when it is nothing like Solomon's temple? Even though this temple is insignificant, Israel needs to build it as an expression that God will one day build another one (as described in Ezekiel and the Messianic promises). Haggai also establishes Zerubbabel as a significant person through whom God will work which we see fulfilled in Jesus's genealogy (see Luke 3:27 and Matthew 1:13).
0. Introduction [1:1]
I. "Consider your ways" [1:2-11]
- In this section, God condemns the people for not rebuilding the temple, pointing out the consequences of this decision.
II. The People Repent [1:12-15]
III. The Future of God's Temple [2:1-9]
- Notice the line of argument: Work on the temple! God is with you and has promised to one day make a temple more wonderful than the first.
IV. God Promises to Bless Sinful Israel [2:10-19]
- Just as anything touched by an unclean thing would become unclean, so it is with God's people. God still promises to bless His people, however, in spite of their unrighteousness.
V. Zerubbabel: God's Signet Ring [2:20-23]
- God gives Zerubbabel as living proof, as it were, that His promises are still in effect (for more details on this, refer to the "Observations/Notes" section below).
- God's faithfulness and future plans. The exile was a shocking time for the Israelites. Questions about God's power, justice, love, and faithfulness abounded as the promises of God looked as though they were never going to happen. Through Haggai, God reminds the Israelites that His promises are still in play and He will one day bless His people and build a temple that will put even Solomon's spectacular temple to shame.
- Responding to God's faithfulness and future plans. While Haggai provides some amazing promises for the future, he also proclaims to his audience some of the most direct and practical commands found in Scripture. Haggai 1:5-8 and 2:3-9 are passages that capture what was Israel's proper response to God's promises. Even though the current temple was pitiful when compared with the first temple and even though God promises to one day make a temple that will make even the first one look pitiful, the Israelites are still commanded to "bring wood and rebuild the temple" (1:8) and to "take courage" (2:4). Rebuilding the current temple pleases and glorifies God (see 1:8) because it reminds Israel and the nations around them that God has not forgotten His promises and is still at work.
- As I mentioned in one of the themes, Haggai is a very quick and direct book. The first eleven verses introduce Haggai and his message and the rest of chapter one describes the people's response to this message (1:12-15).
- The name "Zerubbabel" is very interesting. If it is to be understood as a Hebrew name, it would translate to: "The one sown of Babylon". If it is Babylonian, it would translate to: "Seed of Babylon". Either way, there are two significant ideas that we need to pick up on. First, the reference to Babylon must take us back to the tower of Babel. Babylon and Babel are not the end and they are not the rulers. God will use one born of Babylon as a signet ring, an instrument of a king. Second, Zerubbabel's name, either explicitly or implicitly, has the concept of a seed in mind. This is significant when we think back to Genesis and God's promise that a seed of Adam would crush the head of the serpent. In effect, God is saying that the promises made throughout the entire Old Testament up to this point are not done, forgotten, or otherwise lost. They are still in play and Zerubbabel is living evidence of this. Now, read Zechariah 4:6, Luke 3:27, and Matthew 1:13.