Book Of Haggai

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hag´a-ī, hag´ā̇-i (חגּי, ḥaggay, an adjective formed from חג, ḥagh, “feast”):

The Book of Haggai is a book of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and of the Old Testament, written by the prophet Haggai.

It consists of two brief, comprehensive chapters. The object of the prophet is generally urging the people to proceed with the rebuilding of the second Jerusalem temple in 520 BC after the return of the deportees. Haggai attributes a recent drought to the peoples' refusal to rebuild the temple, which he sees as key to Jerusalem’s glory. The book ends with the prediction of the downfall of kingdoms, with one Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, as the Lord’s chosen leader. The language here is not as finely wrought as in some other books of the minor prophets, yet the intent seems straightforward.

The first chapter first contains the first address (2-11) and its effects (12-15). The second chapter contains:

  1. The second prophecy (1-9), which was delivered a month after the first.
  2. The third prophecy (10-19), delivered two months and three days after the second; and
  3. The fourth prophecy (20-23), delivered on the same day as the third.

These discourses are referred to in Ezra 5:1; 6:14;(Compare Haggai 2:7, 8, 22.)


1. Name

The word “Haggai” may mean “festal,” the prophet having been born perhaps on a festival day; compare the Roman name “Festus.” Hebrew proper names were sometimes formed in this manner, e.g. Barzillai, “a man of iron,” from barzel, “iron.” Haggai may, however, be a shortened form of Haggiah (1 Chronicles 6:30), meaning “festival of Yahweh,” as Mattenai is an abbreviation of Mattaniah (Ezra 10:33, Ezra 10:16). In Greek Ἁγγαῖος, Haggaíos, in Latin, Aggaeus or Aggeus, sometimes Haggaeus. Haggai is the 10th in the order of the Twelve Prophets.

2. Personal History

Little is really known of his personal history. But we do know that he lived soon after the captivity, being the first of the prophets of the Restoration. From Haggai 2:3 of his prophecies it is inferred by many that he had seen the first temple, which, as we know, was destroyed in 586 BC. If so, he must have prophesied when a comparatively old man, for we know the exact date of his prophecies, 520 BC. According to Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14, he was a contemporary of Zechariah, and was associated with him in the work of rebuilding the temple; besides, in the Greek and Latin and Syriac VSS, his name stands with Zechariah's at the head of certain psalms, e.g. Psalm 111:1-10 (112), in the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 AD) alone; Psalm 125:1-5; Psalm 126:1-6, in the Peshitta alone; Psalm 137:1-9, in the Septuagint alone; Psalm 146:1-10; 147; Psalm 148:1-14, in Septuagint and Peshitta; and Ps 145, in Septuagint, Peshitta and Vulgate; perhaps these psalms were introduced into the temple-service on their recommendation. He was a prophet of great faith (compare Psalm 2:1-5); it is possible that he was a priest also (compare Psalm 2:10-19). Like Malachi he bears the name of “Yahweh's messenger” (Heg 1:13; compare Malachi 3:1). According to Jewish tradition, he was a member of the Great Synagogue.

3. Work

Haggai's work was intensely practical and important. Yahweh employed him to awaken the conscience and stimulate the enthusiasm of his compatriots in the rebuilding of the temple. “No prophet ever appeared at a more critical juncture in the history of the people, and, it may be added, no prophet was more successful” (Marcus Dods). Zechariah assisted him (compare Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1).

4. Period and Circumstances

Haggai's prophecies, like Ezekiel's, are dated “in the second year of Darius” (Haggai 1:1; Haggai 2:10), i.e. 520 BC. The Jews, 42,360 strong (Ezra 2:64), had returned from Babylon 16 years before (536 BC), under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the civil head of the community, and Joshua, the ecclesiastical. The generous edict of Cyrus had made return possible (compare Ezra 1:1-4). The new colonists had settled in Jerusalem and in the neighboring towns of Bethlehem, Bethel, Anathoth, Gibeon, Kiriath-jearim, and others adjacent (Ezra 2:20). Eager to reestablish the public worship of the sanctuary, they set about at once to erect the altar of burnt offering upon its old site (Ezra 3:2, Ezra 3:3; compare Haggai 2:14). Plans were also made for the immediate rebuilding of the temple, and the foundation stone was actually laid in the 2nd month of the 2nd year of the return (Ezra 3:8-10), but the work was suddenly interrupted by the jealous, half-caste, semi-pagan Samaritans, descendants of the foreign colonists introduced into Samaria in 722 BC (compare 2 Kings 17:24-41), whose offer to coöperate had been refused (Ezra 4:1-5, Ezra 4:24). For 16 years thereafter nothing was done toward rearing the superstructure (Ezra 4:5, Ezra 4:24; Ezra 5:16); indeed, the Jews became indifferent, and began to build for themselves “ceiled houses” (Haggai 1:4). (W. H. Kosters has attempted to show that there was no return under Cyrus, and that Haggai and Zechariah, who never allude to any return, but rather look upon the return as still in the future (compare Zechariah 2:6, Zechariah 2:7), preached to the Jews who remained in Jerusalem, never having been carried by Nebuchadnezzar into captivity in 586 BC. But this theory is opposed by too many converging lines of Scriptural statement to warrant serious credence.) With the accession of Darius Hystaspes (i.e. Darius, the son of Hystaspes), the tide turned. Darius was a true successor to Cyrus, and favored religious freedom. Through the influence of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the people were roused from their lethargy, and the work of rebuilding was resumed with energy in 520 BC (Haggai 1:14, Haggai 1:15). The foundations were relaid (Haggai 2:18). Four years later, in the 6th year of Darius, the whole structure was completed and dedicated (Ezra 6:15). Meanwhile important events were taking place in the Persian empire. On the death (of Cambyses in 522 BC, the throne had been seized by a usurper, the so-called Pseudo-Smerdis. who held it, however, for some 7 months only. He was murdered by Darius, and the latter was elevated to the throne. But this gave other ambitious pretenders cause to rebel, and many provinces revolted, among them Susiana, Media, Assyria, Armenia, Parthia, and others (compare the famous Behistun inscription). Altogether Darius fought 19 battles in putting down his rivals, and did not succeed in vanquishing all of his foes till the year after Haggai prophesied. This accounts for the prophet's repeated allusions to YHWH's “shaking” the nations (Haggai 2:6, Haggai 2:7, Haggai 2:21, Haggai 2:22). Haggai seems to regard the “shaking” of the nations as the precursor of the Messianic age. It was, therefore, important from the prophet's point of view, that Yahweh's temple should be made ready for the Messiah's advent, that it might become the religious center of the world (compare Isaiah 2:2-4). The exact date of Haggai's preaching was from September to December, 520 BC.

5. Analysis

Haggai's prophecies are dated and therefore easily analyzed. They are composed of four distinct discourses, all four being delivered within 4 months' time in the year 520 BC:

(1) Haggai 1:1-15, delivered on the 1st day of the 6th month (September), in which the prophet reproaches the people for their indifference to the work of rebuilding the temple, and warns them to consider their ways; assuring them that their procrastination was not due to want of means (Haggai 1:4), and that God on account of their apathy was withholding the produce of the field (Haggai 1:10). The effect of this appeal was that 24 days later, all the people, including Zerubbabel and Joshua, began the work of reconstruction (Joshua 1:14, Joshua 1:15).

(2) Haggai 2:1-9, delivered on the 21st day of the 7th month (October), which was about one month after the work had been resumed, and containing a note of encouragement to those who felt that the new structure was destined to be so much inferior to Solomon's temple. The prophet, on the contrary, assures them that the latter glory of the new house shall eclipse that of Solomon's magnificent temple, for soon a great “shaking” on Yahweh's part among the nations will usher in the Messianic age, and the precious things of all nations will flow in to beautify it (compare Hebrews 12:26-28).

(3) Haggai 2:10-19, delivered on the 24th day of the 9th month (December) which was exactly 3 months after the building had been resumed, and containing, like the first discourse, a rebuke to the people because of their indifference and inertia. The discourse is couched in the form of a parable (Haggai 2:11-14), by means of which the prophet explains why the prayers of the people go unanswered. It is because they have so long postponed the completion of the temple; a taint of guilt vitiates everything they do, and blasting and mildew and hail, and consequently unfruitful seasons, are the result. On the other hand, if they will but press forward with the work, Yahweh will again bless them, and fruitful seasons will follow their revived zeal (Haggai 2:19; compare Zechariah 8:9-12).

(4) Haggai 2:20-23, delivered on the 24th day of the 9th month, the very same day as that on which the discourse in Haggai 2:10-19 was delivered. The sequence is immediate. For when YHWH “shakes” the nations, He will establish Zerubbabel, the representative of the Davidic dynasty and the object of patriotic hopes. When the heathen powers are overthrown, Zerubbabel will stand unshaken as YHWH's honored and trusted vicegerent, and as the precious signet on YHWH's hand (compare Jeremiah 22:24; Song Of Songs 8:6).

6. Message

The most striking feature in Haggai's message is its repeated claim of Divine origin: 5 times in the 38 verses of his prophecies, he tells us that “the word of Yahweh came” unto him (Haggai 1:1, Haggai 1:3; Haggai 2:1, Haggai 2:10, Haggai 2:20); 4 t, also, he used the formula, “Thus saith Yahweh of hosts” (Haggai 1:2, Haggai 1:5, Haggai 1:7; Haggai 2:11); 5 times “saith Yahweh of hosts” (Haggai 1:9; Haggai 2:6, Haggai 2:7, Haggai 2:9, Haggai 2:23); and 4 times simply “saith Yahweh” (Haggai 1:13; Haggai 2:4, Haggai 2:14, Haggai 2:17). Altogether he uses the exalted phrase “Yahweh of hosts” 14 t, besides 19 repetitions of the single but ineffable name “Yahweh.” The most striking sentence in all his prophecies is probably that found in Haggai 1:13, “Then spake Haggai, Yahweh's messenger in Yahweh's message unto the people.” His single purpose, as we have above seen, was to encourage the building of the temple. This he seems to have regarded as essential to the purity of Israel's religion. His key-exhortation is “Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5; Haggai 1:7; compare Haggai 2:15, Haggai 2:18). His prophecies reflect the conditions of his age. He points to judgments as a proof of the Divine displeasure (Haggai 1:9, Haggai 1:10; Haggai 2:15-19). Unlike the earlier prophets, he does not denounce idolatry; but like his contemporary, Zechariah, and his successor, Malachi, he does lay stress on the external side of religion. Chief interest centers in the somewhat unusual parable contained in Haggai 2:10-19, which teaches that holiness is not contagious, but that evil is. “The faint aroma of sanctity coming from their altar and sacrifices was too feeble to pervade the secular atmosphere of their life” (A. B. Davidson, Exile and Restoration, 82). Haggai argues that Israel's sacrifices for 16 years had been unclean in God's sight, and had brought them no blessing, because they had left the temple in ruins; and, that while a healthy man cannot give his health to another by touching him, a sick man may easily spread contagion among all those about him. The thought is suggestive. Haggai may or may not have been a priest, “but in so short a prophecy this elaborate allusion to ritual is very significant.” Another very striking thought in Haggai's book is his reference to Zerubbabel as Yahweh's “servant” and “signet,” whom Yahweh has “chosen” (Haggai 2:23). Wellhausen regards these words as an equivalent to making Zerubbabel the Messiah; but it is enough to think that the prophet is attempting only to restore him to the honorable position from which his grandfather, Jehoiachin, in Jeremiah 22:24, had been degraded. Thus would the prophet link Zerubbabel, the political hope of the post-exilic congregation, to the royal line of Judah. Isaiah speaks of Cyrus in similar terms without any Messianic implication (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1). On the other hand, the implicit Messianic import of Haggai 2:7, Haggai 2:8 is recognized on all sides.

7. Style

Haggai's style is suited to the contents of his prophecies. While he is less poetical than his predecessors, yet parallelism is not altogether wanting in his sentence (Haggai 2:8). Compared with the greater books of prophecy, his brief message has been declared “plain and unadorned,” “tame and prosaic”; yet it must be acknowledged that he is not wanting in pathos when he reproves, or in force when he exhorts. Though he labors under a poverty of terms, and frequently repeats the same formulas, yet he was profoundly in earnest, and became the most successful in his purpose of all his class. He was especially fond of interrogation. At best we have only a summary, probably, of what he actually preached.

8. Criticism

The critical questions involved in Haggai's case are not serious: Haggai 2:5, for example, is wanting in the Septuagint; to Haggai 2:14 the Septuagint adds from Amos 5:10; 2:17 is very similar to, and seems dependent on, Amos 4:9; Amos 1:7 and Amos 1:13, are rejected by some as later interpolations; while Klostermann and Marti hold that the book as a whole was not written by Haggai at all, but rather about his prophetic activity, a perfectly gratuitous assumption without any substantial proof in its favor.


Driver, New Century Bible, “The Minor Prophets,” II, 1906; LOT, 1909; G. A. Smith, Expositor's Bible, “The Twelve Prophets,” II, 1898; E. B. Pusey, The Minor Prophets, II, 1878; M. Dods, “Handbooks for Bible Classes,” Hag, Zec, Mal; J. Wellhausen, Die kleinen Propheten übersetzt u. erklärt, 1898; W. Nowack, Die kleinen Propheten übersetzt u. erklärt, 1905; K. Marti, Dodekapropheton erklärt, 1904; H. G. Mitchell, ICC, 1912.

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