INTRODUCTION TO Haggai
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Before analyzing the test of any book of the Bible, it is well to learn the historical background.
Also, it is best to make a "skyscraper" view of its general contents. Accordingly, this introduction is divided into two parts: background and survey.
- Haggai is unquestionable the author. Very little is known about him outside of this book and Ezra 5:1 and 6:14. Haggai means festal or festive in Hebrew. 1 Sam. 30:16 has it translated as revealing (NIV) and dancing (KJV). We don't know why his parents named him as such though much speculation has been done. Perhaps his name is fitting because Haggai was one of the few prophets who had the inexpressible pleasure of seeing the fruits of his message ripen before his very eyes.
- Haggai was born in Babylonia in captivity with the rest of the Israelites his age. He returned to Jerusalem with the first group of exiles in 538 B.C.
- The word of the Lord came to Haggai after Zerubbabel, Haggai, and just under 50,000 Jews returned from Babylonian exile to Jerusalem. His message was short and to the point. The book contains four messages which the people obeyed.
- Daniel was an old man when Israel returned and so stayed in Babylon. In Egypt Jeremiah had given his last prophecies a generation earlier. Ezekiel was also from the previous generation. It's doubtable that Haggai would have known him even though Ezekiel was also in Babylon during the exile. Zechariah was a contemporary prophet. (Ezra 5:1) Zerubbabel was made governor of Judah by the Mede-Persian ruler Cyrus. (Ezra 2:1-2)
- Date and Place of Writing
- Haggai ministry was written from 520 to 490 B.C. The book that bears his name was a series of messages given in a month.
- The book of Haggai is a collection of four messages and the responses to those messages; all occurring in Jerusalem.
- Haggai delivered messages to those who had returned to Jerusalem and Judah from Babylonia under Cyprus' edict. The main message concerns the need to finish the building of the house of the Lord and the blessings that would follow. A prediction that the Messiah's glory would bless this temple lays within the messages of encouragement.
- Since the Holy Spirit has been given the Lord's people since Pentecost we are now the temple of the Lord. So this message is to us as well. Are we building his house or have we stopped working on it?
- Occasion and Purpose
- The Lord had stated through the prophet Jeremiah before Judah had been taken into captivity that the captivity would last seventy years. (Jer. 25:11-12, 29:10; and 2 Chron. 36:21) The exile began with Nebuchadnezzar's first invasion of Judah in 605 B.C. (2 Chron. 36:2-7) and ended with the first return of the Jews to the promised land in 536 B.C. (Ezra 1) Cyprus, the Mede-Persian ruler ordered the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the Lord's temple.
- Daniel was an old man when they returned and so stayed in Babylon. He had learned of Jeremiah's prophecy and prayed with repentance for the return. Daniel had just received the revelation of Israel's seventy years (Daniel 9), and had not yet received the revelation of the last great war (Daniel 10-12).
- After Daniel prayed the people returned to Jerusalem and had begun work on the temple. Then after a few years they stopped. The Lord sent Haggai to rebuke then. Once they obeyed and started working on the temple again, the Lord gave them words of encouragement.
- Form and Style
The book of Haggai is an historical account.
Haggai delivers four simple messages of the Lord which the people respond to.
- Place Among the Old Testament Books
- Haggai is the second smallest books of the Old Testament with two chapters (38 verses) after Obadiah which has one (21 verses). Scholars have placed it with the other eleven minor prophets.
- Just because scholars have classified twelve of the prophetic books as minor does not mean that their message is any less important than the four major prophets. In fact the New Testament quotes the minor prophets more than the major prophets.
Haggai delivers four simple messages of the Lord which the people respond to. The first is a reproof and an explanation that the drought was because they had stopped working on the temple. (1:11) The people repented and the Lord stated, "I am with you." (1:13) The second sermon is an encouragement and a promise for greater glory (refering to the Messiah's future appearance at this temple. (2:7) The third is a promise of blessing (2:19) and the fourth concerns Zerubbabul. (2:23)
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