Haggai means "my feast". He was the first prophet after the Babylonian exile. He lived at the same time as Zechariah (and Confucius) and his ministry was to call the people to finish the Temple...its completion had been delayed for 15 years.
Time of writing and time in history:
His prophecies were given between August and December of 520 B.C. The temple was completed 4 years later. Haggai probably returned to Jerusalem from Babylon with Zerubbabel. The book is addressed to the people (1:13; 2:2), but also to the governor, Zerubbabel, and to the High Priest, Joshua (1:1; 2:2,21).
The first step, after returning from the Captivity, for the Jews, in the restoration of their national life in their homeland, was the rebuilding of the Temple.
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
These three Prophets belonged to the period after Return from Captivity, the period told about in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther…
Haggai and Zechariah aided in building the Temple (520-516 B.C.). Malachi is thought to have been associated with Nehemiah nearly 100 years later, in rebuilding the Wall of Jerusalem.
Chronology of the Period
536 B.C.: 50,000 Jews, under Zerubbabel, return to Jerusalem.
536 B.C.: 7th month, they build the Altar, and offer sacrifice.
535 B.C.: 2nd month, work on Temple begins, and is stopped.
520 B.C.: 6th month (September), 1st day, Haggai's Call to Build.
6th month, 24th day, Building Begins.
7th month (October), 21st day, Haggai's 2nd Appeal.
8th month (November), Zechariah's Opening Address.
9th month (December), 24th day, Haggai's 3rd and 4th.
11th month (February), 24th day, Zechariah's Visions.
518 B.C.: 9th month (December), 4th day, Zechariah's Visions.
516 B.C.: 12th month (March), 3rd day, the Temple is completed.
515 B.C.: 1st month (April), 14th-21st days, Joyful Passover.
457 B.C.: Ezra comes to Jerusalem, and makes certain reforms.
444 B.C.: Nehemiah Rebuilds the Wall. Period of Malachi.
Haggai and His Book
Haggai may have been an old man who had seen the first Temple (2:3)?. His book is composed of four brief discourses.
Judah had been conquered, Jerusalem burned, the Temple demolished, and the people carried away to Babylon (606-586 B.C., as told in II Kings 24, 25). After 70 years' Captivity, about 50,000 Jews, by the edict of king Cyrus, had returned to their own land (536 B.C), and had begun to rebuild the Temple. But ere they had laid the foundation the work was stopped by their enemy neighbors. Nothing further was done for 15 years. Meantime a new king, Darius, had ascended the Persian throne. He was kindly disposed toward the Jews. And, under the direct preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, work was resumed and the Temple completed in four years (520-516 B.C). The Wall of Jerusalem was built about 70 years later by Nehemiah.
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, pp. 376-377
Sermon #1: God’s Command…Complete the Temple Haggai 1:1-15
1:1 Darius I (Hystaspes) ascended to the throne of Persia in 522 and appointed Zerubbabel, grandson of Jehoiachin, king of Judah (1 Chron. 3:17,19), as governor of the newly constituted province of Judah. sixth month. Elul (September). Jehozadak. High priest at the time of the Babylonian invasion (1 Chron. 6:15).
The Ryrie Study Bible, Charles Ryrie, footnote on Haggai 1:1, p. 1410
The people had returned from exile to Jerusalem and begun their new lives. However, while they had repaired their own homes...they had not repaired the Temple. God tells them to look at their efforts. Despite their hard work they were not being very profitable. The reason is that they had not followed through in their worship of God...and it was affecting the rest of their lives. God tells them to "Consider your ways!" (:5,7)...to give careful consideration to their efforts and how well things were going for them. He gives several specific examples of how they were trying to do something, but it never turned out as good as it could be…
- “sown much…harvest little” (:6)
- “eat…not satisfied” (:6)
- “drink…not enough to become drunk” (:6)
- “clothing…not warm enough” (:6)
- “earns…purse with holes” (:6)
- “look for much…comes to little” (:9)
He also says that it appears that the natural elements themselves have turned against them…
- “sky has withheld its dew” (:10)
- “earth its produce” (:10)
- “drought on the land” (:11)
- “mountains” (:11)
- “the grain” (:11)
- “the new wine” (:11)
- “the oil” (:11)
- “what the ground produces” (:11)
- “on men” (:11)
- “on cattle” (:11)
- “on all the labor of your hands” (:11).
The point that God is making is that there is a direct correlation between their worship of Him…and their productivity and happiness.
He then tells them to rebuild the Temple. God "stirred up the spirit" of the governor, the high priest, and the remnant of the people who had returned to "work on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God" (:14).
Sermon #2: God’s Comfort…I Am with You Haggai 2:1-9
Haggai 2:1-9-God tells them to look at the Temple that they have built and compare it to the former Temple that Solomon had built. Some of the people who had seen the Temple before it was destroyed became discouraged. They thought that it could never be that great, again.
2:3 The background for this question is in Ezra 3:8-13. A few septuagenarians and older ones, who could remember the larger and more beautiful Temple of Solomon, wept when they saw the smaller, plainer Temple of Zerubbabel. Coupled with the slim harvest, this sight also infected others with discouragement.
The Ryrie Study Bible, Charles Ryrie, footnote on Haggai 2:3, p. 1411
But God assures them that while the glory and beauty of the Temple is important…the most important thing about the Temple is that is represents God’s presence with His people…"I am with you...My Spirit is abiding in your midst.” (:4,5). God then assures them that there is a day coming (the Millennial Period) when “the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former" (:9). In that day, the glory of the Temple will far exceed even the glory of Solomon’s Temple…because God’s presence with them will far exceed His presence at that time, as well.
Sermon #3: God’s Concern…Live a Holy Life Haggai 2:10-19
God now asks two questions and gives an answer to each one (:10-11). But the two questions work together to make one point.
This sermon was preached two months after that in the former part of the chapter. The priests and Levites preached constantly, but the prophets preached occasionally; both were good and needful. We have need to be taught our duty in season and out of season. The people were now going on vigorously with the building of the temple, and in hopes shortly to have it ready for their use and to be employed in the services of it; and now God sends them a message by his prophet, which would be of use to them.
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Haggai 2,
Haggai 2:12-The first Q&A (:12) tells us that a man who is carrying "holy meat" (meat for a sacrifice) is sanctified (cf. Lev. 6:27) by it...but that sanctification cannot be spread to other things that he touches.
Haggai 2:13-The second (:13) Q&A tells us that a man who touches something that is dead is defiled...in this case, the defilement is spread to other things that he touches.
The point of these two questions is: sanctification or cleanness cannot be transferred, but defilement can; just as health is not contagious, but disease can be. The disobedience of the people was like a dead thing in their midst, contaminating all of them (v. 14).
The Ryrie Study Bible, Charles Ryrie, footnote on Haggai 2:13, p. 1412
- Will it become holy? Will it be unclean? Haggai questions the priests - who were accustomed to answering such questions -about the transmission of both holiness and impurity. The priests answered correctly according to the Law of Moses: holiness is not "contagious," but impurity is.
- A sick child cannot catch "health" from contacting a healthy child; but the healthy child can become sick. The principle of transmission really only works one way far more than both ways.
- So is this people, and so is this nation before Me: On the same principle, living in the Holy Land and offering sacrifices will not make the people acceptable, as long as they themselves are unclean through neglect of the house of the LORD.
- Since the exile to Babylon, the people of Israel focused on getting back to the Promised Land. In and of itself this was not a bad focus; yet it led to the thinking that once they made it back to the Promised Land everything else would just fall into place. Haggai reminds them that their presence in the Promised Land doesn't make everything they do holy. If the priorities of our heart are wrong, nothing we do is really holy to God.
- "The ruined skeleton of the Temple was like a dead body decaying in Jerusalem and making everything contaminated." (Baldwin)
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Haggai 2,
- By way of conviction and caution. They were now engaged in a very good work, but they were concerned to see to it, not only that it was good for the matter of it, but that it was done in a right manner, for otherwise it would not be accepted of God. God sees there are many among them that spoil this good work, by going about it with unsanctified hearts and hands, and are likely to gain no advantage to themselves by it; these are here convicted, and all are warned thereby to purify the hands they employ in this work, for to the pure only all things are pure, and from the pure only that comes which is pure. This matter is here illustrated by the established rules of the ceremonial law, in putting a difference between the clean and the unclean, about which many of the appointments of the law were conversant. Hereby it appears that a spiritual use is to be made of the ceremonial law, and that it was intended, not only as a divine ritual to the Jews, but for instruction in righteousness to all, even to us upon whom the ends of the world have come, to discover to us both sin and Christ, both our disease and our remedy. Now observe here,
- What the rule of the law was. The prophet is ordered to enquire of the priests concerning it (v. 11); for their lips should keep this knowledge, and the people should enquire the law at their mouth, Mal. 2:7. Haggai himself, though a prophet, must ask the priests concerning the law. His business, as an extraordinary messenger, was to expound the providences of God, and to give directions concerning particular duties, as he had done, ch. 1:8, 9. But he would not take the priests' work out of the hands of those who were the ordinary ministers, and whose business it was to expound the ordinances of God, to teach the people the meaning of them, and to give the general rules for the observance of them. In a case of that nature, Haggai must himself consult them. Note, God has given to his ministers diversities of gifts, and calls them out to do diversities of services, so that they have need one of another, should make use one of another, and be helpful one to another. The prophet, though divinely inspired, cannot say to the priest, I have no need of thee, nor can the priest say so to the prophet. Perhaps Haggai was therefore ordered to consult the priests, that out of their own mouths he might judge both them and the people committed to their charge, and convict them of worse than ceremonial pollution. See Lev. 10:10, 11. Now the rules of the law, in the cases propounded, are,
(1.) That he that has holy flesh in his clothes cannot by the touch of his clothes communicate holiness (v. 12): If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, though the garment is thereby so far made a devoted thing as that it is not to be put to common use till it has first been washed in the holy place (Lev. 6:27), yet it shall by no means transmit a holiness to either meat or drink, so as to make it ever the better to those that use it.
(2.) That he that is ceremonially unclean by the touch of a dead body does by his touch communicate that uncleanness. The law is express (Num. 19:22), Whatsoever the unclean person touches shall be unclean; yet this Haggai will have from the priests' own mouth, for concerning those things that we find very plain in our Bibles yet it is good to have the advice of our ministers. The sum of these two rules is that pollution is more easily communicated than sanctification; that is (says Grotius), There are many ways of vice, but only one of virtue, and that a difficult one. Bonum oritur ex integris; malum ex quolibet defectu-Good implies perfection; evil commences with the slightest defect. Let not men think that living among good people will recommend them to God if they are not good themselves, but let them fear that touching the unclean thing will defile them, and therefore let them keep at a distance from it.
- How it is here applied (v. 14): So is this people, and so is this nation, before me. He does not call them his people and his nation (they are unworthy to be owned by him), but this people, and this nation. They have been thus before God; they thought their offering sacrifices on the altar would sanctify them, and excuse their neglect to build the temple, and remove the curse which by that neglect they had brought upon their common enjoyments: "No,' says God, "your holy flesh and your altar will be so far from sanctifying your meat and drink, your wine and oil, to you, that your contempt of God's temple will bring a pollution, not only on your common enjoyments, but even on your sacrifices too; so that while you continued in that neglect all was unclean to you, nay, and so is this people still; and so they will be; on these terms they will still stand with me, and on no other-that if they be profane, and sensual, and morally impure, if they have wicked hearts, and live wicked lives, though they work ever so hard at the temple while it is building, and though they offer ever so many and costly sacrifices there when it is built, yet that shall not serve to sanctify their meat and drink to them, and to give them a comfortable use of them; nay, the impurity of their hearts and lives shall make even that work of their hands, and all their offerings, unclean, and an abomination to God.' And the case is the same with us. Those whose devotions are plausible, but whose conversation is wicked, will find their devotions unable to sanctify their enjoyments, but their wickedness prevailing to pollute them. Note, When we are employed in any good work we should be jealous over ourselves, lest we render it unclean by our corruptions and mismanagements.
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Haggai 2,
Sermon #4: God’s Confidence…He is in Control Haggai 2:20-23
Haggai 2:20-23-God spoke to Haggai a second time on the same day (:20). Though Zerubbabel was the governor of Israel…he was always mindful that it was just a province of Persia. Israel was not an independent nation. This must have bothered Zerubbabel greatly. God reassures Zerubbabel that while it may not appear so at the present time…He is in control of all things. At that moment, He was actually using these foreign nations to accomplish His will. And, there is a day coming when He will overpower all the other nations on earth and reestablish the preeminence of Israel (the Millennial Period).
Prayer: Father, sometimes life can be very difficult. At those times, help me to remember that this is not Heaven…this is earth. Also help me to remember that regardless of appearances…You are in control. And then turn my heart to the future…and give me a glimpse of Your glory such as I will see when I arrive in Heaven.