- King Darius was the Persian king who ruled over large parts of the Middle East, including Judah and Jerusalem.
- To be precise, the date is August 29 in 520 BC.
- The background to Haggai’s prophecies can be found 66 years earlier. The Jewish people, after a devastating defeat in war with the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, have been carried away into captivity in 586 BC.
- The reason for the captivity is given by God Himself in the text of the prophet Jeremiah: “And when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.’ ”” (Je 5:19)
- The curses suffered by Judah are described in Deuteronomy, where it says that if Israel forsakes God, God will cause foreign armies to take all the cities and carry the king and the people away into captivity (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).
- All this happened to Zerubbabel’s grandfather, King Jeconiah (2 Kings 24:8-17).
- Although God sent the Jewish people into captivity, He promised through the prophet Jeremiah that He would see to it that after 70 years in captivity they would return to their own land (Jer 29:10).
- This return is made possible by God when he instructs the Persian king Cyrus to invite the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-3).
- In 536 BC, Zerubbabel, the Jewish governor, is in Jerusalem and begins the rebuilding of the Temple. Unfortunately, Zerubbabel runs into trouble almost immediately when the new locals, the Samaritans, want to help rebuild the Temple, which the Jews do not agree to (Ezra 4:1-5). The Samaritans send a letter of complaint to the Persian king, who banned all construction in the city of Jerusalem with the immediate result that temple building was halted and lay dormant for 15 years (Ezra 4:21).
- When the Persian king Darius in 520 B.C. gives the Jews new favorable directives, Haggai simultaneously receives four prophetic messages, which have the combined effect of spurring the people and Zerubbabel to resume and complete the building of the temple (Ezra 6:14).
- Prophet is a Greek word which in Hebrew is “nabi” and in English means “preacher”; i.e. a person who speaks for someone else.
- An example of an early “nabi” is Aaron, who was Moses’ nabi when he pleaded Moses’ case before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1).
- A prophet is a mediator between God and God’s people.
- A prophet of God speaks for God before his people (Jer 26:16-18).
- A prophet can also speak for the people before God (Amos 7:2-3).
- According to Paul, hearing God’s voice and communicating God’s word is a gift from God that we should strive for because it builds up the church (1 Corinthians 14:1-5).
- There is not much intrabiblical information about Haggai, as he is mentioned only twice in addition to his own book (Ezra 5:1, 6:4). We therefore know nothing concrete about his family, ancestry or profession.
- What we do know is that Haggai’s name חגי means “feast” or “festival” in Hebrew, which may indicate that he was born during a festival or that his parents may have thought he looked festive when he was born.
- Zerubbabel’s name זְרֻבָּבֶל, means “descendant of Babylon” or “born in Babylon”, indicating that he was probably born in the captivity in Babylon.
- Zerubbabel was of royal lineage, but there is some uncertainty about his exact relationship to King Jeconiah (also called Jehoiachin and Coniah). Zerubbabel is called the son of Shealtiel on several occasions, for example in Hag 2:24. According to Chronicles, Shealtiel is the son of King Jeconiah (1 Chron 3:17). However, problems arise if one reads further in Chronicles, which describes Zerubbabel as the son of Jeconiah’s third son Pedaiah (1 Chron 3:19). Possibly this problem can be solved if one assumes that Shealtiel died childless and then Pedaiah took Shealtiel’s widow as his wife who then gave birth to Zerubbabel. This would then make Zerubbabel Pedaiah’s biological son but Shealtiel’s heir according to Deuteronomy 25:5-6. But regardless of whose son Zerubbabel was, it appears that he was in any case the grandson of King Jeconiah of Judah.
- Joshua is the son of Jehoshaphat, who was high priest when Nebuchadnezzar carried the Jewish people away into captivity (1 Chron 6:15).
- The Lord of Hosts actually means “Yahweh of hosts” and signals that God has all power.
- Haggai uses this very name of God very frequently in his relatively short writing; no less than 14 times.
- When Jerusalem was captured in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar, the temple was destroyed.
- Because of the difficulties the people encountered when they started building, they seem to have interpreted this as the time not being right to build the temple and chose rather to focus on building their own houses.
- They could not deny the very idea of rebuilding the temple, so instead they excused their neglect by saying that the time was not right. This explanation may have sounded spiritual, but it was valuable!
- Earlier Haggai had addressed the Jewish leadership, now he addresses the whole people.
- Again Haggai shows that he is only a spokesman for God, it is not his own words that he speaks, it is the Lord’s.
- The people had stopped building on the temple and instead invested in building luxurious houses for themselves.
- It’s hard not to draw parallels with the Swedish Free Church movement, which invests a lot of money in its homes but not in the church.
- The fact that the Jewish people preferred to build their own houses upset God, who sent various economic troubles in the form of inclement weather that made the vital harvest difficult.
- It is ironic that although the people had invested in their own economy, it was precisely economic hardship that they experienced.
- When we don’t put God first, God doesn’t bless what we put first.
- The Israelis’ biggest problem was not the devil’s attacks but their own priorities.
- Ultimately, this is a question that affects all believers; is our focus on ourselves or on God?
- If God gives us a clear mission but we choose to do something else, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if we fail to do it?
- God gives the people a solution to their problems; if they complete the temple, their other problems will be solved.
- Jesus addresses the exact same problems the Jewish people had in Haggai’s time; food, drink and clothing, when he teaches us the same principle: “Therefore do not be anxious, and do not ask, ‘What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, What shall we wear? For all these things the Gentiles seek, but your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and you will have all these things also.” (Matt 6:31-33).
- It should be added, however, that there is nothing necessarily wrong with having a nice house, but not as long as God’s house is in ruins.
- King Solomon first built the house of the LORD and then his own royal house (1 Kings 9:10, 6:38, 7:1).
- It was God himself who had made it difficult for the people.
- Not every problem you face has a given cause, but sometimes it’s worth stopping and listening to God if he has something to say about the situation you’re in.