Introduction to Haggai

Study notes ▪ 2017
Tags: Haggai; Jerusalem; Temple; Priests; Judah; Zerubbabel
Related Resources: Introduction to Zechariah


Author

Haggai, a prophet who addressed the remnant that inhabited Judah after the Babylonian exile (1:1; 1:12-1:13; etc.); elsewhere acknowledged for spurring the people to finish rebuilding the Jerusalem temple (Ezra 5:1-2; 6:14-15)

Date

520 BC
  • Haggai states that his prophecies were revealed on specific dates within the reign of Darius (1:1; 1:15; 2:1; 2:10; 2:18; 2:20). This leads conservative scholars (e.g., Geisler 231) to assign a date around 520 BC.
  • Merrill places Haggai around “the accession of Darius Hystaspes to Persia’s throne in 522” (494).
  • Wolf describes his prophecies as being “firmly dated in a four-month span during the second year (520 B.C.) of Darius the Great” (“Haggai” 594).

Kings Mentioned  

Judah: None
Israel: None

Nation(s) Targeted

Primary: Judah, as evidenced by references to the Jerusalem temple (1:2; 1:14; 2:7; 2:15; etc.); Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah (1:1; 2:2; etc.); Joshua, the high priest (1:1; 1:12; 2:4; etc.); and the priests (2:11-13)
Secondary: None

Representative Texts

1:1-8; 1:14-2:4; 2:8-11; 2:13-14; 2:20-23

Core Message

In a span of four months, Yahweh uses the prophet Haggai to speak to his people who have returned from Babylonian exile. The word of the Lord comes in four distinct oracles, addressing Judah’s leaders (governor, high priest, and priests) and the population at large. Although two of the messages contain significant corrective elements, the overall outlook is quite positive.

In the first oracle Yahweh reprimands his people for neglecting to rebuild the temple. They have made their own dwellings comfortable but have left God’s house in ruins. As a result, he has limited the productivity of their labor. The challenge is to secure materials and rebuild the Lord’s house, and the people promptly take up the work. The second oracle addresses the remnant’s inclination to view the second temple as inferior to Solomon’s. Yahweh assures his people that his presence and power are with them, and that he will confer on the house great glory and peace.

The third oracle begins by posing questions to the priests about ritual purity. Inattentive contact between objects and/or persons tends to compromise rather than spread purity, and so it is with the nation’s neglect of the temple: it has caused them to experience covenant curses. Nevertheless, Yahweh pledges that their obedience in rebuilding the temple will lead to near-term blessings. The final oracle speaks directly to the governor. The Lord will soon triumph over earthly kingdoms and affirm that he has chosen Zerubbabel as his servant.

New Testament References

  • 2:6 (Heb. 12:26)[1]

Features

According to Wolf, “The book of Haggai is rare among the prophetic books because it has no poetic lines” (“Haggai” 595). However, this is not to imply that it lacks stylistic depth. Its literary features include use of rhetorical questions, repetition, parallelism, and allusions (595; Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman 358).

Haggai’s final oracle likens Zerubbabel to a signet ring (2:23), an image that bears messianic significance. Generations earlier, Zerubbabel’s family line had been barred from the Davidic throne through a curse that employed similar imagery (Jer. 22:24-30). The promise of Haggai 2:23 seems to reverse the effects of the curse, as Matthew 1:13 lists Zerubbabel as an ancestor of Jesus (Austel 685-86; Wolf, “Haggai, Theology of” 323-24).

Haggai 2:7 (ESV) prophesies that “the treasures of all nations shall come in.” The Hebrew word rendered as treasures can also mean desired, as reflected in the KJV, NIV, and NKJV. Some interpreters see this as a reference to the Messiah, a view that is reflected in the lyrics of more than one Christmas hymn. For discussion, see NET Bible (note on 2:7), Wolf (“Haggai” 595), and Constable (note on 2:7).

Sources

Austel, Hermann J. “Haggai.” Baker Commentary on the Bible, edited by Walter A. Elwell, Baker Books, 2000, pp. 682-86.
Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Constable, Thomas L. Notes on Haggai. http://lumina.bible.org/bible/ Haggai+2#constablesNotesHolder
Geisler, Norman L. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Baker Book House, 1977.
Merrill, Eugene H. Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel. Baker Books, 1996.
NET Bible. http://lumina.bible.org/bible/Haggai+2
Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. InterVarsity, 1998.
Wolf, Herbert M. “Haggai.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, fully revised, vol. 2, Eerdmans, 1982, pp. 594-96.
---. “Haggai, Theology of.” Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Walter A. Elwell, Baker Books, 2000, pp. 323-24.

[1] For discussion of this allusion to Haggai, see Beale and Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (988-91).


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