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.
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” (
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
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.
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 (
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. (
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 (
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 (
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.
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 (
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 (
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.
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.
The prophecy can be outlined as follows:
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.
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"):
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 (
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
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" (
4. Period and Circumstances:
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:
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 (
The critical questions involved in Haggai’s case are not serious:
Driver, New Century Bible, "The Minor Prophets," II, 1906; LOT, 1909; G. A. Smith, Expositor’s Bible, "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