THE BOOK OF HAGGAI: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

Though Haggai’s message comprises only two chapters out of the Old Testament’s nine hundred and twenty-nine total chapters, it contains a number of great lessons – lessons for God’s children in any era of time. Haggai’s writing has a powerful punch!

Historical setting: After the Israelites of the Southern Kingdom were exiles under the dominion of the Babylonians for seventy years, the Lord God, in fulfillment of His promise, visited them and brought them back to their homeland. Actually, it was by His providence that Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persians, allowed the Jews to return home (Ezra 1:1-4).

Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua, a number of Jews, with the blessing of King Cyrus’ decree, traveled from Babylon to Judah in about B.C. 536 (recorded in Ezra 2). One of their main objectives was to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, as it had been destroyed when the Babylonians conquered Judah.

The Jews were able to lay the foundation of the temple in a timely fashion (Ezra 3:8-11). Not long afterwards, the Jews were forced to stop their rebuilding project (Ezra 4). About fifteen years passed. The temple remained unconstructed. It was at that time that Jehovah sent two messengers to exhort the Jews to get back to work and finish the temple task. Those two men were the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1,2).

When we read in Haggai 1:1 that the word of the LORD came to Haggai in the second year of King Darius, that gentleman was the ruler of the Medo- Persian Empire, and the date was around B.C. 521. Haggai would be on the scene in Jerusalem until at least the time the temple was rebuilt in its entirety (Ezra 6:14,15). When you think about the book of Haggai, think about it being connected with the history recorded in the book of Ezra, chapters one through six. It was an exciting, but challenging period of time. Now, we are ready to look at Haggai’s words.

Some key thoughts:

(1) Three English words form the major thrust of Haggai’s message: “build the temple” (1:8). The prophet’s appeal is for the Jews to get up, get back to work, and get the temple project completed. The Jews who returned to Judah had constructed nice, paneled houses for themselves. What about God’s house? It still was lying in ruins (1:4). Then came the call from the Lord: “Go . . . and build the temple” (1:8).

(2) The Jews needed to do some self-inventory. Seeing the lives of the Jews, combined with their lack of effort in finishing His house, God told His people, “Consider your ways!” (1:5,7). It always is a healthy thing for the children of God to examine themselves and see if they are living in harmony with the will of their heavenly Father (2 Corinthians 13:5).

(3) If the temple was going to be finished, a lot of work would be required. The temple certainly would not build itself! “So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people, and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God” (1:14). Beautiful! Keep it going! God’s word came again to the people via Haggai, and the clear appeal was, “. . . be strong, Zerubbabel, says the LORD; and be strong, Joshua . . . and be strong, all you people . . . says the LORD, and work; for I am with you says the LORD of hosts” (2:4).

Other memorable lessons:

The role of a prophet was to speak God’s word, making no additions or subtractions to what He said. Read the book of Haggai and be thrilled by the seer’s commitment to declaring, “Thus says the LORD.” For instance, in Haggai 1:13 we read, “Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, spoke the LORD’s message . . . says the LORD.” One of the things that sets God’s people apart from the religious world is their devotion to a “Thus says the Lord.”

Haggai has a connection to the new covenant. The message of Haggai 2:6 (“. . . Once more, it is a little while, I will shake heaven and earth . . .) is quoted in Hebrews 12:26. In the context of Hebrews 12:26, we read about (1) “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (12:24), (2) our need to hear the One Who speaks from heaven (12:25), and (3) the kingdom which the first-century saints received and comprised (12:28). Thus, Haggai was foretelling the coming kingdom of the Messiah, that is, His church.

The words of Haggai 2:20-23 also point, at least in a symbolic way, to the new covenant. In those verses, we read about Zerubbabel being told that God would shake heaven and earth, overthrow kingdoms, and in that day make Zerubbabel a signet ring. Did you know that this Zerubbabel was a descendant of King David and an ancestor of Jesus? He was (Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27). We might think of Zerubbabel as a type of the Christ: both Zerubbabel and Jesus led people out of bondage, both built temples, both were of the lineage of David, and both were given great authority.

The Bible says that Haggai helped the Jews during the process of rebuilding the temple. As God’s spokesman, he exhorted, rebuked, and called the people to action. Let us learn these valuable lessons.

— Roger D. Campbell

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