Old Testament Survey - Lesson 34

Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi

This lesson provides insight into the historical and social context of Haggai's ministry during the Persian period, understanding his pivotal role in motivating the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Despite the brevity of his recorded ministry, Haggai's prophetic messages hold significant influence, fostering hope and action among the disillusioned community. Through his exhortations to recognize God's presence, order, and reign, you learn about the enduring relevance of faith amidst adversity.

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 34
Watching Now
Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi

I. Introduction to Haggai

A. Historical Context

B. Prophetic Institution in Decline

C. The Three Prophets in the Persian Period

II. Context of Haggai's Ministry

A. Timeline and Prophetic Activity

B. Short Timeline of Haggai's Ministry

C. Social and Economic Realities

III. Themes of Haggai

A. The Temple Rebuilding

B. Expectations vs. Reality

C. Leadership and Authority

IV. Haggai's Preaching and Influence

A. Role in Temple Reconstruction

B. Literary Style and Composition

C. Proposed Composite Work with Zechariah

V. Content Overview of Haggai

A. Division of the Book

B. Major Sections and Themes

C. Oracles and Calls to Action

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi
Lesson Transcript


The last three prophets in the book involve calls to recognize Yahweh's grace and glory in the Persian period. We've had one prophet who may have performed his work in the Persian period, but the three we are now considering in this session and the next were clearly there. We begin with the book of Haggai.

First of all, the context of Haggai's ministry. We get the impression that even before the spirit of prophecy was withdrawn from Israel after Malachi's ministry, the prophetic institution was already in decline. From the century after Cyrus' decree authorizing the return of the Judean exiles, we know of only three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The first two served the new commonwealth of Yehud. That's the word in the Bible, Judah. Simultaneously, in the last quarter of the sixth century, Malachi appeared in the next part of a century later.

Of course, this doesn't mean that no other prophets were around. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It means only that the works of these three prophets were transcribed, gathered, and preserved as canonical scripture by and for the community of faith.

Taking a cue from the prophecies of Ezekiel, the editor of Haggai's prophecies has performed a helpful service by dating all five of his oracles, a feature shared with three prophecies in Zechariah, which leaves some to imagine that Zechariah, these first oracles in Zechariah, originally were actually combined with Haggai's. In examining these date notices, it becomes apparent that all the preserved oracles of Haggai were delivered within a four-month period. Notice verse 1. In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel.

Then notice chapter 2, verse 1. On the 21st day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came. Then in verse 10 of chapter 2, on the 24th of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Haggai. So we find that his ministry, apparently, at least this record of his ministry was quite, quite short.

Within a four-month span, we have all the prophecies in this book. The prophet's preaching reflects the harsh social and economic realities of the late sixth century, the last half of the 500s, in Yehud during the reign of Cyrus. Although Cyrus had authorized the rebuilding of the temple almost two decades earlier in 538 B.C., and the foundations had been laid at that time, Ezra 3, 7 to 13, with great celebration they laid the foundations, but the construction had ground to a halt.

Ezra 5, 1 credits the Haggai and Zechariah with rekindling the passion for the temple and resuming the project. Inspired, or should we say discouraged, by memories of the old Solomonic temple, actually Davidic temple, on the one hand, and the vision of Ezekiel's new temple on the other, chapters 40 to 48 of Ezekiel, the returnees from Babylon undoubtedly expected the imminent restoration of normalcy in all their lives. But it had only happened in part.

They expected to occupy the whole hereditary land of Israel, the return of Yahweh to his temple, the restoration of David's descendants as kings, and a new era of peace and prosperity. The presence of a governor Zerubbabel from a descendant of David lent concrete fuel to these hopes. We have a David died here.

Why can't we have a king? But these aspirations were not realized and very quickly gave way to widespread disillusionment and cynicism. For the immediate audience, Haggai's concern, as in Zechariah 1 to 8, the immediate concern is how can this remnant of regathered Israelites continue to be the people of God, particularly in the absence of a Davidic king, without occupying the whole land of Israel and under the overlordship of Persia? While Haggai addressed his prophecies to the community as a whole, many of whom had only recently trickled back from Babylon. Look at 1.1 and 2.2. Several of his oracles were directed specifically at the two leaders, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the priest.

This diarchic, two-headed rule, two-headed administrative structure marks a significant change from pre-exilic times. In the new commonwealth, Judah had no king. Although the documents make a point of identifying Zerubbabel as a descendant of David, he was only the governor, and as such, he had no jurisdiction over all affairs requiring Persian attention.

Reflecting the increased influence of the priesthood after the return, Joshua the high priest held the office of ecclesiastical authority, but only that. In this position, he assumed a great deal of internal political, judicial, and economic responsibility, previously held by the royal house, but the royal house is a mere governor serving the Persian agenda. The lineage of Joshua was as impressive as Zerubbabel's, but the presence of a descendant of David as governor seems to have kept the hope alive that this system was only temporary, that is, the present system, and before long, the Davidic throne would be re-established.

In response, both Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the people to relax and take care of the business at hand. They thrust the Davidic hope forward into the eschatological future. We see this in Haggai 2, 21 to 23, and in Zechariah 4, 6b to 10a.

But what do we know about the prophet Haggai? Again, very little. This has been a common refrain in our introductions to these minor prophets. The name derives from a word meaning pilgrimage festival, from which we get the present Arabic word hajj, which refers to the annual festivals of the Muslims, even to this day.

But it suggests that Haggai may have been born during one of Israel's three annual festivals, Passover, Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Booths. Based on Haggai's interests in religious matters, some have thought he had priestly background like Joshua, that is, his contemporary, but the evidence is inconclusive. In this book, 1, 1, 2, 1, and in Ezra 6, 14, he is called the prophet.

1, 13 refers to him as the messenger of Yahweh, Malak Yahweh. As we said before, elsewhere this is translated as the angel of Yahweh. But Haggai must have been an effective preacher.

At the time of his first sermon, the temple still lay in ruins, 1, 1, but by the time his brief ministry was over, three and a half months later, enormous progress had been made, 2, 10, and 2, 20. The book itself and the notes in Ezra 5, 1, and 6, 14 provide impressive testimony to the effect a prophet's preaching could have on his audience. It was Haggai's and his friend Zechariah's preaching that got the reconstruction of the temple back on the road after a delay of two decades, and with a matter of years, the entire project was completed.

What can we say about Haggai's style of preaching? Well, with its 600 words distributed among 38 verses, Haggai is the third shortest prophetic book after Obadiah and Nahum. Most agree that the prophet's oracles were transcribed, collected, compiled, and edited almost immediately after they were delivered, but who was responsible for this process we don't know. Nevertheless, in light of the numerous literary and thematic correspondence, some have proposed that Zechariah may have been involved in the business of his friend Haggai's putting his oracles into print.

Some, like Carol Myers, propose that Haggai plus Zechariah 1 to 8 represented a single composite work intended to be presented to the people on time for the rededication of the new temple in March of 515 BC, see Ezra 6, 15 to 22. This document would have represented an appropriate ideological basis. It would have provided an appropriate ideological basis for the people of God in the second commonwealth.

Well, let's review the content of the book based on its outline. Based on shifts in subjects and the explicit signals provided by the date notices, the book Haggai divides into two major sections, 1, 1 to 15, and 2, 1 to 23. The first part divides further into two segments, the oracle proper addressed directly to Zerubbabel and Joshua, that is, the governor and the priest, 2, 10 to 19 is addressed to the people, perhaps, and then we have 2, 20 to 23.

What's the content of these texts? In the first one, we have a call to rebuild the temple with the prophet's appeal, verses 1 to 11, and the people's response. Then we have, I mean, in light of their discouragement, we have oracles of encouragement, a three-part sermon, a call to recognize God's presence, God is here, God is with us, verses 1 to 9 of chapter 2, a call to recognize God's order, 2, 10 to 19. The world is not in chaos.

And third, a call to recognize God's reign. This is the gospel according to Haggai.