Author: The prophet Haggai. His name means “my feast,” which according to Bible commentator Fausset, was probably a name given in anticipation of the joyous return of God’s people from exile. We know that he was a prophet (Ezra 5:1, 6:14). According to Jewish tradition, Haggai was a Levite who returned with Zerubbabel to Jerusalem. Some years later, he would die in Jerusalem and would be buried among the priests. He was the first prophetic voice to be heard after the Babylonian Exile. A contemporary of Zechariah, his ministry was to call the people to finish the Temple.
Interesting historical note ~ he was also a contemporary of ~
Date: The dating of this book is very clearly defined by the prophet Haggai himself. The book was written in the second year of the reign of Darius, King of Persia (1:1). This would pinpoint the writing of this book at 520 B.C. This book covers a little less than 4 months of time. We see this very clearly by comparing the following verses: 1:1 with 2:10, and finally 2:20.
Recipients: Again, we do not have to guess, as Haggai very clearly reveals to us who he was writing to. He was writing specifically to Zerubbabel the governor, to Joshua the high priest, and ultimately to all of the inhabitants. Note the following verses: 1:1, 13, 2:2, 21.
Theme: Finishing the building of the house of the Lord. We see this by noting the key phrase “the Lord’s house” or “this house” or “mine house,” which occur in some form 8 times and the word “consider,” which occurs 5 times. The key verses, 1:14 and 2:9, show us that Haggai’s theme was to cause the people to consider finishing the house of the Lord, the Temple, whose completion had been delayed for 15 years. Purpose: The book of Haggai is of the same period as Ezra and Nehemiah. These last 3 prophets of the Old Testament times are often called “the post-exilic prophets.” These 3 books center in the activities of the nation upon their return to the land after the Babylonian captivity. In 539 B.C., Babylon fell and a year later, Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return. By 536 B.C., the first group had arrived and laid the foundation of the Temple. Knowing that this book was written in 520 B.C., we recognize this is 16 years after their return. We ask ourselves, what had happened? Why had the house of the Lord not been completed in 16 years? After the first year of laying the foundation, activity had stopped for 15 years. By looking at Ezra, chapters 4-6, we see how, because of opposition from neighboring nations, work on the Temple stopped, and the people really did not plan on resuming. In fact, for over 2 years, the conversation for resuming the work had stopped completely. The people had grown cold- hearted and did not make any attempt to resume the work. It is interesting to note, though, that though the people had allowed enemies to stop their work on the house of the Lord, they had built their own homes (1:4-6). God then raised up Haggai and Zechariah (16 years after the first group had arrived) to preach the need to complete the building project. But also there was a rebuilding project that needed to occur in their own lives. In 5 messages, we see Haggai rebuking, exhorting and encouraging the people to pursue the task of rebuilding the Temple. Over a 4 month period, Haggai’s five messages show us how God chose to work through this prophet to get the people first committed to God and then completing the work of rebuilding the Temple. The Temple was completed 4 years after these prophesies were shared.
Outline: Basically this book is divided into five messages. Each message is recorded with its proper date and a simple remembrance of these five messages give us the easiest way to think through this book. These five messages are among the most precisely dated of all prophecies. The year ~ the month ~ the day is clearly stated (1:1/1:15/2:1/2:10/2:20)
I. First Message of rebuke (1:1-11)
II. First Message of encouragement and promise (1:12-15)
III. Second Message of encouragement and the future glory of the Temple (2:1-9)
IV. Second Message of rebuke and cleansing (2:10-19)
V. Third Message of encouragement and the final overthrow of Gentile world power (2:20-23)
It is exciting to note that the people quickly responded to the preaching of this prophet, and the rebuilding of the Temple was completed in 515 B.C.