The Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) 18: Haggai
Haggai addresses the post-exilic remnant. The Jews had been exiled in Babylon for 70 years (Jer. 25:11f.) through a series of deportations, starting in 606 B.C. with the final destruction of the temple in 586. Just as was promised (Jer. 25:12, Hab. 1:11), the Persians defeated the Babylonians in 539. Good emperor Cyrus released the Jews and following him, in 538 Darius decreed that the Jews could return to their homeland and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1-3). But in every era, there are challenges. So even with the return and rebuilding of the temple.
We read of the background of Haggai in Ezra 4:24–5:2: “Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. 5:1 When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them, 5:2 then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them.”
God had dated the time of the exile in Jeremiah 25:11, “This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” 2 Chronicles 36:21 makes clear that God required a Sabbath for the land “to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.”
We can precisely date Haggai four messages in 520 B.C., the first of which is on August 29, 520 B.C. (the second year of Darius’ reign, first day of the sixth month), the second is on September 21 (1:15), then October 17 (2:1), and December 18 (2:10). As it turns out then, the temple was finished in 516 (Ezr. 6:15) 70 years after the earlier temple had been destroyed in the fall of Jerusalem in 586 (Jer. 25:11; 29:10; Deut. 9:2). The seventy year period is clear, whether the exile is dated from the first deportation or the temple destruction:
606 first invasion / 586 final invasion and destruction of the temple = 70 years
536 first return / 516 temple finished = 70 years
Noting this background, the main message of Haggai is to encourage and exhort the returned remnant to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The temple was a manifestation of God with His people. If one believes God is present, then a House for God must be built. Instead of focusing upon their own houses and building back their own culture, they were to obey the Word of the Lord and rebuild the Lord’s House. And they did! Haggai 1:7–8 -
Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways! 1:8 “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD.
Perhaps the most glorious aspect of the book is the promise of the latter glory of the rebuilt temple. Haggai 2:5ff:
‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’ 2:6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. 2:7 ‘I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. 2:8 ‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the LORD of hosts. 2:9 ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the LORD of hosts.”
This text is comforting to the people, since the footprint of the temple was much smaller than Solomon’s temple. But God’s promises do not always get fulfilled the way we expect. The promise of 2:6 is that God from that time forward will be shaking the nations of the world in order to fill the house of God with glory. This “Second Temple” would be the place for a people to return to exile to gather around the Lord. Second Temple Jews forsook polytheistic idolatry and they made proselytes of many other nations (Acts 2:10).
In the next era, it should be noted that by rebuilding and establishing a place for the faithful back in the Land, a foundation for the life and times of Jesus the Messiah in the NT era. Ultimately these people (regathered) would have among them a young Jewish woman named Miriam/Mary and she would conceive and give birth to Jesus, the True Temple. So while the Second Temple served its purpose in its time (just like the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple), the promise is that as a result of the regathering of Israel after the exile God will be “with His people” - Immanuel.
If we fast-forward, during the NT, just like before the exile, idolatry surrounded the Second Temple. So the writer of Hebrews says,
“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more