Overview of the Book of Haggai

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Overview of the Book of Haggai

Answer

Overview of the Book of Haggai

Author: The prophet Haggai.

Purpose:

To encourage the reconstruction of the Temple in hopes of bringing great blessings to Israel after the exile.

Date: 520 B.C. (Haggai's ministry)

Key Truths:

  • God offered many blessings to the first returnees after the exile.
  • The priorities of God's Kingdom must take precedence over our personal comforts.
  • Servants in the Kingdom of God must be undefiled.
  • The hopes of God's people rest in the Temple and in the house of David as they are fulfilled by Christ.
  • God's people are destined to inherit the earth in Christ.

Author:

The prophet Haggai (his name means "my feast") worked with the prophet Zechariah to encourage the returning Jewish exiles as they rebuilt the Temple (Ezra 5:1; 6:14). We know nothing about Haggai other than what the book of Ezra mentions and what we learn from the prophet's own book. The book closes with high expectations for Zerubbabel, leaving little doubt that the book was written before the governor's restoration program failed.

Time and Place of Writing:

As we might expect from our discussion of authorship, the books of Haggai and Zechariah (see "Introduction to Zechariah") have a common historical background, both prophets having begun their ministries in 520 B.C., in "the second year of Darius" (Hag. 1:1; Zech 1:1). The Jews had returned to the promised land under the edict of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4) in 538 B.C. and had begun to rebuild the Temple. Opposition from the outside and discouragement from within caused them to abandon the project (Ezra 4:1-4) for 16 or 17 years. When Haggai and Zechariah began their work in 520 B.C., further opposition came from Tattenai, the Persian governor of Trans-Euphrates (see note on Ezra 4:9-10). But Darius I (Hystaspes), who ruled Persia from 522 to 486 B.C., reissued Cyrus's edict so that the Temple was rebuilt within four years (Ezra 6:13-15). The second Temple was dedicated on March 12, 516 B.C.

As for Haggai's oracles, we learn from his book that they were delivered between August and December 520 B.C.

Purpose and Distinctives:

The book of Haggai consists of four messages, each of which is headed by the phrase "the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai [or "to Haggai"]" (Hag. 1:1; 2:1; 2:10; 2:20). These four messages alternate between calls to repentance in light of God's continued withholding of blessings on the land (Hag. 1:1-11; 2:10-19) and promises of greater blessings on the Temple and through the Davidic line (Hag. 2:1-9; 2:20-23).

Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi together use the title "LORD Almighty" more than 90 times (14 times in Haggai). In Hebrew, it literally means "Lord of armies." The title's meaning has two aspects: It stresses the sovereign power of the Lord who reigns over Israel and the whole earth though his military power (1 Sam. 17:45) and emphasizes his faithfulness to his covenant people, which causes them to worship him (cf. Psa. 24).

Through his "messenger" (Hag. 1:13) Haggai, the Lord called upon the unfaithful remnant of his covenant people to repent and rebuild his Temple. God's concern was based upon his own sovereign pleasure and his desire to be honored (Hag. 1:8). The people's lack of desire to build the Temple revealed their deeper lack of desire for God's special presence. They were under the curses of the covenant (see notes on Hag. 1:6, 9, 11) but did not realize it. As a result of Haggai's ministry and of the prompting of God's Spirit (Hag. 1:14) they responded with obedience (Hag. 1:12).

Haggai reaffirmed that the Lord was with his people, just as he had been with them when he had brought them out of Egypt (Hag. 1:13; 2:4-5). Haggai's ministry was based on the expectation that God would renew his covenant promises to his people when he brought them back into the land. Haggai's words drew on those of earlier prophets at a number of points (see notes on Hag. 2:7-8). The rebuilding of the Temple was an important part of that renewal, and Haggai developed that hope by associating the Temple with the renewal of the house of David. Haggai affirmed the hope that as God's anointed representative on Earth, the great son of David, the Messiah, would bring his glory, peace and prosperity to God's people (Hag. 2:6-9). Zerubbabel prefigured the Messiah in Haggai's day and was the object of much hope for the nation. Ultimately, however, only Jesus the Messiah fulfills the promise made to Zerubbabel (Hag. 2:23) of being God's royal ruler ("signet ring") on Earth.

Christ in Haggai:

The two central themes of this book - the Temple and the victory of the Davidic line - find their fulfillment in Christ. Rebuilding the Temple was crucial for the restoration of the nation to the blessings of God. It was the place of prayer, worship, forgiveness, etc. Christ is the final Temple (John 2:21-22), but the Church, his body, is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). When Christ returns the new heavens and the new earth will be God's holy dwelling place (Rev. 21:22-23).

The restoration of David's line was also an essential part of God's blessing on the restored community. The Davidic line was to lead the people in battle and secure their prosperity. Jesus is the Messiah, the final and perfect son of David (Matt. 1:1; Luke 20:41-44; Rom. 1:3). After his death he established his Kingdom when he ascended to his throne in heaven (Acts 1:9-11). He now reigns until all of his enemies are subdued (1 Cor. 15:25-27; 1 Pet. 3:22). When he returns he will rule over the heavens and the earth (Heb. 2:8; Rev. 1:5). The Church is united with Christ in his enthronement (Rom. 8:37; 1 Pet. 5:10), so that one day those who overcome will reign with him.

Notes from the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, Dr. Richard Pratt, ed. (Zondervan, 2003).

Introduction Material:

Introduction to the Prophetic Books

Copyright:

Copyright, Authors, and Theological Editors of the SORSB

Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries who served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and has authored numerous books.