Haggai

HAGGAI (hăg'ā-ī, Heb. haggay, festal). Prophet of the Lord to the Jews in 520 b.c. Little is known of his personal history. He lived soon after the Captivity and was contemporary with Zechariah (cf. Hag.1.1 with Zech.1.1).


In order to make the dates clearer to modern readers, we will give the months their approximately equivalent names in our calendar. On September 1, 520 b.c., the Lord spoke through Haggai, and instead of addressing the people at large, the prophet went straight to “headquarters,” i.e., to Zerubbabel the prince and to Joshua the high priest. The people had stopped building the Lord’s house though they were quite able to build their own, and God’s message was “Give careful thought to your ways.” The punishment for their neglect had been futility; they labored much but produced little. God used “weather judgments” to bring them to their senses. The leaders heeded the message and with the best of the people, they began immediately to build, and on September 24 God’s short message was “I am with you” (Hag.1.13). A month later, the people were tempted to be discouraged when they contrasted their present effort with the former magnificent temple, and so God told them, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house” (Hag.2.9). This message was delivered on October 21, and it contained this notable statement: “The silver is mine and the gold is mine.” The fourth and fifth messages came in one day, December 24, 520. In the fourth, Haggai said that holiness is not contagious, though evil is, and Israel’s change in attitude would cause God to change chastening into blessing. In the last message (Hag.2.20-Hag.2.23), God predicts a shaking of the nations but at the same time a great reward to Zerubbabel. Perhaps his reward was inclusion as an ancestor of our Lord in both the royal line (Matt.1.13) and the line recorded in Luke (Luke.3.27).

Bibliography: F. E. Gaebelein, Four Minor Prophets: Obadiah, Jonah, Habakkuk, and Haggai: Their Message for Today, 1970; J. C. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary, 1972.——ABF


Palace of Darius I at Persepolis. His reign coincided with the career of Haggai. Copyright ''O.I.U.C.''

HAGGAI hăg’ ī, -ĭ (חַגַּ֣י; LXX ̔Αγγαι̂ος). This book formed the tenth in the series of short prophetical writings that comprised the concluding section of the Heb. OT.

Outline

Background.

Haggai prophesied in the period following the return of the exiles from Babylonia about 538 b.c. The conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus the Pers. one year earlier made it possible for captive elements within the Babylonian population to look for liberty from enslavement. That this expectation was fully justified is indicated by the celebrated Cylinder of Cyrus, a cuneiform text that recorded the Pers. conqueror giving general permission to the racial minorities that had been carried captive to Babylonia by the previous regime to return to their homeland and begin life afresh. The Cylinder read in part,

From...to Ashur and Susam Agade...Zamban, Meturnu, Deri, with the territory of the land of Gutium, the cities on the other side of the Tigris...the gods which dwelt in them, I brought back to their places...all their inhabitants I collected and restored to their dwellingplaces.

The prospect of a return to a desolate and impoverished land was by no means attractive to all of the Jews who had been in exile in Babylonia, particularly for those whose faith in the God of Israel had been shattered by the calamity of captivity. In addition, the opportunity of returning to Pal. to rebuild the ruins of the past had little practical appeal to those Jews who had managed to take advantage of the generous and rather naive Babylonians to build up prosperous commercial enterprises. In consequence, only those Jews who had caught a vision of service to God and man in the light of the promised covenant (Jer 31:31-35; Ezek 18:1-32) were seriously interested in the challenge inherent in restoring the years that the locusts had eaten. The enthusiasm that this remnant must have experienced at the thought of personal liberty was no doubt tempered by the sober realization that great hardships and difficulties lay ahead in the land of their forebears. Those exiles who returned were led by descendants of the house of David, the most prominent of whom were Sheshbazzar (from the Babylonian forms Sin-ab-usur or Shamash-ab-usur) and Zerubbabel (the Babylonian Zer-Babil). Sheshbazzar was cited as the “prince of Judah” (Ezra 1:8), and he bore the title of “governor” (5:14), the latter presumably indicating that he was the first ruler of the Pers. province of Judah. In 537 b.c., the first year of the return to Pal., the altar of burnt offering was rebuilt, some of the ancient ceremonial rites were restored to public worship, and most important of all, the repatriated exiles laid the foundation of a new Temple in the midst of ruined Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 5:16).

As indicated above, a great many Jews who had managed to establish successful careers or business ventures in Babylonia were reluctant to abandon them for the prospects of a bleak and unpromising future in Pal. It can be inferred, therefore, that the bulk of those who returned to Judea were sustained more by religious zeal than by material possessions. Although the sight of the ruined sanctuary in Jerusalem may well have evoked a good deal of initial compassion, the most pressing consideration for repatriates of limited means would be that of gaining as good a living as possible from the environs of the capital city. This preoccupation with the desperate struggle for existence amid unpromising surroundings seems to have taken almost all the available time and energy of the returned exiles. More seriously than this, the Book of Haggai seems to indicate that the state of shock that must have accompanied these conditions had sapped the spiritual zeal of the repatriates, making them apathetic about restoring the ruined sanctuary to something of its former grandeur. Certainly there is no evidence in the prophecy of Haggai that anything more than the laying of the foundation of the new structure had been accomplished in a decade of life in Judea.

It has sometimes been supposed that, since Haggai was not mentioned until about 520 b.c. (Ezra 5:1, 2), he had returned as an adult to Pal. with a fresh group of exiles at this period. However, there is no indication in his prophecy that such was actually the case, and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary it is legitimate to suppose that Haggai was still a child when he returned to Judea with his parents in 537 b.c.

Unity.

The Book of Haggai comprises four short oracles delivered by the prophet himself, written in the third person sing., and associated with the restoration of the Temple in 520 b.c. They were delivered on the first day of the sixth month (Hag 1:1), the twenty-first day of the seventh month (2:1) and the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (2:10, 20) respectively, in the reign of Darius I. It has been suggested by some writers that the work proceeded from two different hands, one of which compiled the narrative material while the other assembled a small collection of oracles. Other scholars, however, have denied that the prophecy constitutes an editing of diverse sources, and have argued, from the obvious closeness of the writer to events that occurred in Judea in the time of Darius I, for the unity and historicity of the prophecy.

Authorship.

The name Haggai may have been derived from the word for “festival,” suggesting that his birth coincided with some Israelite feast. The name of his father is unknown, and there is no information available concerning the family background of the prophet or the social situation from which he came. The historical activities of Haggai are corroborated by references in Ezra (Ezra 5:1; 6:14), and his prophecy, along with that of Zechariah, is of great importance as a source of information relating to the period between the return from exile and the work of Ezra and Nehemiah. Some scholars have argued that, because the extant prophecy appears as resumés of addresses, the book as it stands cannot have come from the hand of Haggai, but instead was the work of a disciple or group of disciples. However, the extant form of the oracles suggests that they were written down from memory shortly after being delivered, and since the prophetic ministry of Haggai was of such short duration it is highly unlikely that he had attracted disciples before his work was actually committed to written form. There is no element in the prophecy as it now stands that points to diversity of authorship. Indeed, the weight of internal and external evidence supports the contention that the prophet Haggai was himself the author of the work attributed to him, and that he furnished a narrative of contemporary events involving himself in an objective manner.

Date.

Fortunately it is possible to assign a precise date to the book without difficulty, because the various oracles are related to the reign of Darius I (522-486 b.c.). The first address, given on the first day of the sixth month, placed the beginning of the prophetic activity of Haggai in August-September of 520 b.c. His fourth oracle was delivered on the ninth day of the fourth month, namely November-December of 520 b.c., shortly after the prophet Zechariah commenced his ministry.

Place of origin.

The oracles of Haggai consistently presuppose a background of life in Judea in the period following the return of the exiles. Since the various utterances were connected with the site of the ruined Temple, shortly to be restored, with the civil governor, and with the priests of the cultus, there can be no doubt that the place of origin of the prophecies was Jerusalem itself. No other location in Judea can be considered as an acceptable substitute.

Destination.

The words of the prophet were meant primarily for local consumption. The first oracle in particular exhorted the repatriates to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem, whereas the second (Hag 2:1-9) comprised a message of encouragement to the laboring populace, promising them that the fruit of their striving would attract greater honor than its renowned predecessor. The involving of the priests in the argument of the third utterance (2:10-19) again bespeaks a local situation, as does the assurance given to Zerubbabel, the civil governor of Judea, in the fourth oracle (2:20-23). From the nature of the prophetical and historical situation, it is evident that the utterances of Haggai were meant for the populace of Judea.

Occasion.

The specific occasion that gave rise to the various prophecies was that associated with the reconstruction of the Temple about 520 b.c. on the ruins of the former site in Jerusalem. His oracles convey the impression that the enormity of the difficulties confronting the repatriated exiles had weakened their initial spiritual vision, and that whatever energies they possessed were being spent in an urgent attempt to survive physically. However, the first oracle spoke about the “paneled houses” of the returned Jews (1:4), implying that once the bare necessities of life had been met, a spirit of apathy toward the rebuilding of the Temple had set in. As time passed without any attempt at reconstruction, the inhabitants of Jerusalem became even more dispirited, particularly when the traditions concerning the splendor and majesty of the Solomonic Temple were recalled, no doubt by some elderly members of the populace who had seen it as children. The purpose of the prophecy, therefore, was to combat apathy and depression by giving inspired leadership for the actual reconstruction, along with a promise from God that the glory of the new Temple would exceed that of the former. Along with these emphases came the reminder that the Jews must observe spiritual priorities strictly if they were to expect material prosperity and divine blessing.

Purpose.

The principal aim of the oracles was to stimulate the lethargic repatriates to the rebuilding of the Temple, and the reorganization of community life on a proper footing in terms of spiritual priorities. Because of their attitudes the Jews of Judea were in serious danger of losing the vision of a theocratic community in which the revealed will of God would be mediated to the populace by means of a consecrated priesthood. The restored community was not meant to be just another agglomeration of citizens living in free association, but a brotherhood of the spirit, bound to one another and to God through loyalty to the divine covenant, and living as a witness of the ability of God to liberate the captive and restore the penitent to a proper place in society. In a time of considerable upheaval in the Pers. empire, it was the responsibility of Haggai to assure the citizens of Jerusalem and Judea that obedience to the will of God would ensure them a period of peace and prosperity. As far as the civil and religious rulers were concerned, Haggai was at pains to make clear their place in the larger purpose of God for the theocracy by showing that God had chosen them and fitted them for their special tasks.

Canonicity.

The prophecy was included from the beginning in the twelve short compositions known as the minor prophets. Chronologically, it is the earliest of the three postexilic prophecies of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi that deal with the period of the restoration of the Temple, and there has never been any question as to the legitimacy of its place in the canon of Heb. Scripture. This was doubtless due in no small measure to the influence of Ezra, who attested directly to the work of Haggai.

Text.


Content.

The prophecy can be outlined as follows:

1:1-15

2:1-9

2:10-19

Theology.

Whereas the prophecy is historical rather than religious in character, it stands firmly in the theological tradition of Ezekiel with regard to the development of the priestly commonwealth. This is clearly indicated by the way Haggai related the prophetic eschatology of salvation to the constructing of the second Temple. Haggai has occasionally been criticized for upholding the “superficial view” of material prosperity automatically following the careful observance of the mechanics of cultic worship. It should be noticed, however, that with Ezekiel, who also paid punctilious attention to the minutiae of ritual worship, Haggai stressed the correct motivation of the human spirit. This emphasis upon priorities was a consistent element in his theology. He saw God as a wholly righteous and moral being who demanded from His covenant people complete obedience and spiritual loyalty. If they manifested His moral and ethical characteristics they would be true witnesses to His power, and would be rewarded with peace and prosperity while other nations were in the grip of turmoil. Seeking the kingdom, in the truest sense, would insure that all other necessities would be added to them, whereas a prime emphasis upon material possessions would only result in individual and community deterioration. So far from being deficient in spirituality, Haggai furnished in his third oracle the most succinct statement to be found anywhere in the OT concerning the fact that evil is far more penetrating and diffusive than goodness. His insight constituted a lesson for the priests, whose forebears had been responsible morally and spiritually for the calamity of the Exile by condoning idolatry, but it was also equally applicable to the general populace. By employing a question relating to ritual procedure, Haggai was able to make clear that even a small amount of evil requires an enormous amount of operative goodness to offs et its deleterious effects.

Bibliography

H. G. Mitchell, ICC (1912); E. Sellin, KAT (1929); F. Horst, HAT (1954); R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the OT (1969), 944-948.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

hag’-a-i, hag’-a-i (chaggay, an adjective formed from chagh, "feast"):

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 (1Ch 6:30), meaning "festival of Yahweh," as Mattenai is an abbreviation of Mattaniah (Ezr 10:33,16). In Greek Haggaios, 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 Hag 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 Ezr 5:1; 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. Ps 111 (112), in the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) alone; Psalms 125; 126, in the Peshitta alone; Ps 137, in the Septuagint alone; Psalms 146; 147; 148, 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 2:1-5); it is possible that he was a priest also (compare 2:10-19). Like Malachi he bears the name of "Yahweh’s messenger" (Heg 1:13; compare Mal 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 Hag 1:1; Zec 1:1).

4. Period and Circumstances:


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) Hag 1, 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 (1:4), and that God on account of their apathy was withholding the produce of the field (1:10). The effect of this appeal was that 24 days later, all the people, including Zerubbabel and Joshua, began the work of reconstruction (1:14,15).

(2) Hag 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 Heb 12:26-28).

(3) Hag 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 (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 (2:19; compare Zec 8:9-12).

(4) Hag 2:20-23, delivered on the 24th day of the 9th month, the very same day as that on which the discourse in 2:10-19 was delivered. The sequence is immediate. For when Yahweh "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 Yahweh’s honored and trusted vicegerent, and as the precious signet on Yahweh’s hand (compare Jer 22:24; So 8:6).

6. Message:


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 (Hag 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: Hag 2:5 a, for example, is wanting in the Septuagint; to 2:14 the Septuagint adds from Am 5:10; 5:17 is very similar to, and seems dependent on, Am 4:9; 1:7 b and 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.

LITERATURE.

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 ubersetzt u. erklart, 1898; W. Nowack, Die kleinen Propheten ubersetzt u. erklart, 1905; K. Marti, Dodekapropheton erklart, 1904; H. G. Mitchell, ICC, 1912.

George L. Robinson