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Book of Haggai

Book of Haggai
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The Book of Haggai (Greek=Aggeus) was written in 520 BCE some 18 years after Cyrus had conquered Babylon and issued a decree in 538 BCE allowing the captive Jews to return to Judea. He saw the restoration of the temple as necessary for the restoration of the religious practices and a sense of unity after a long exile. His Feast Day in the Orthodox Church is December 16th.

Upon the return from Babylon (536 BC) the Jews, full of religious zeal, promptly set up an altar to the God of Israel, and reorganized sacrificial worship. They next celebrated the feast of Tabernacles, and sometime later laid the foundation of the "Second" Temple, called also the Temple of Zorobabel. The Samaritans prevented them, by an appeal to the Persian authorities, from proceeding further with the rebuilding of the Temple

In fact, the work was interrupted for sixteen years, during which various circumstances, such as the Persian invasion of Egypt in 527 BC, a succession of bad seasons entailing the failure of the harvest and the vintage, the indulgence in luxury and self-seeking by the wealthier classes of Jerusalem, caused the Jews to neglect altogether the restoration of the House of the Lord. Toward the end of this period the political struggles through which Persia passed would have made it impossible for its rulers to interfere with the work of reconstruction in Jerusalem, even had they wished to do so, and this was distinctly realized by the Prophet Haggai. At length, in the second year of the reign of Darius the son of Hystaspes (520 BC), Haggai came forward in the name of the Lord to rebuke the apathy of the Jews, and convince them that the time had come to complete their national sanctuary, that outward symbol of the Divine presence among them.

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Brief outline.

Chapter 1:

P>1:1-1:15 The Command to Rebuild the Temple

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Chapter 2:

2:1-2:9 The Future Glory of the Temple
2:10-2:19 A Rebuke and a Promise
2:20-2:23 God's Promise to Zerubbabel.

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A narrative outline is provided below.

Haggai's first prophecy (1:1,2) is ascribed to the first day of the sixth month (August) of the second year of Darius' reign. It urges the Jews to resume the work of rearing the Temple, and not to be turned aside from this duty by the enjoyment of their luxurious homes. It also represents a recent drought as a divine punishment for their past neglect. This first utterance is followed by a brief account (1:12-14) of its effect upon the hearers; three weeks later work was started on the Temple.

In his second prophecy (2:1-9), dated the twentieth day of the same month, the prophet foretells that the new House, which then appears so poor in comparison with the former Temple of Solomon, will one day be incomparably more glorious.

The third prophecy (2:11-20), referred to the twenty-fourth of the ninth month (Nov.-Dec.), declares that as long as God's House is not rebuilt, the life of the Jews will be tainted and blasted, but that the divine blessing will reward their renewed zeal.

The Prophet Haggai's last utterance (2:20-23), ascribed to the same day as the preceding, tells of the divine favour which, in the approaching overthrow of the heathen nations, will be bestowed on Zorobabel, the scion and representative of the royal house of David.

The simple reading of these oracles makes one feel that although they are shaped into parallel clauses such as are usual in Hebrew poetry, their literary style is rugged and unadorned, extremely direct, and, therefore, most natural on the part of a prophet intent on convincing his hearers of their duty to rebuild the House of the Lord.

We now turn to the Book of Zachariah.

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Bibliography:

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