Author: Haggai
Date Written: 520-515 BC


The book of Haggai is a very short collection of the prophet's oracles given in the fall of 520 BC, interspersed with a few historical accounts.  Haggai was a contemporary of Zechariah.  They both encouraged the people to rebuild the Temple (Ezra 5:1, 6:14).  Haggai's name means "born on the feast-day."

In 538 BC, Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon and sent some of the exiled Jews back to Palestine to rebuild.  Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, was the governor of the group and Joshua, a descendant of Zadok, was the high priest.  The two led the group of returned exiles to begin reconstructing the Temple in 537 BC, but the "people of the land" halted their progress (Ezra 4:5).  After Darius I the Great acceded to the Persian throne in 522 BC, Haggai prophesied to the returned exiles, calling them to recommit themselves to building the Temple.

The book is divided into five precisely dated occasions.  In the first, the Lord calls the people to build his house with a promise of prosperity (Hag 1:1-11).  The people respond to Haggai's word and begin the building process under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua (1:12-15).  As Haggai encourages the people to work heartily he prophesies that the future glory of the temple will be greater than the former (2:1-9).   Next, through a dialogue with the Jewish priests, Haggai pronounces that uncleanness is more contagious than holiness in order to show that the lack of Temple-building activity is the cause of the people's lack of material goods (2:10-19).  Finally, Haggai prophesies that Zerubbabel will be the Lord's "signet ring" (2:20-23).  The hope for a new political kingdom under the rule of Zerubbabel, the Davidic heir to the throne was never realized.  Yet this prophecy is often understood to be fulfilled by the ultimate Son of David of whom Zerubbabel is only a type: Jesus.

The Temple was extremely significant for Judah's relationship with the Lord.  It was the only place where the cult could be celebrated, animals sacrificed, feasts commemorated.  The Temple was the heart of Jewish worship.  While the returned exiles were already sacrificing on the ruins of the first Temple, the Lord wanted them to reconstruct the whole building.  They built the second Temple with meager resources and under difficult circumstances.  But their work was an act of faith that God would fulfill his promises to them.  The second Temple did achieve a greater glory than the first because it was graced by the presence of Christ himself.

Haggai is relatively unique among the prophets, in that the people immediately responded to his message in obedience.  Haggai roused a people who had forgotten their purpose.  Initial obstacles, legal entanglements, resource shortages and the march of time had caused them to forget why they returned to Palestine.  They were living their lives in "paneled houses," trying to make ends meet, but Haggai shocked them out of their haze and helped them to realize they had a mission to build the Temple and restore the practice of worship.  When our lives get filled with clutter, we can turn to Haggai and his generation for a dose of reality, mission and purpose.  God did not place us on this earth merely to live in paneled houses and enjoy our grain, wine and oil.  We are made to worship him and our lives should constantly reflect this calling.


By Mark Giszczak

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December 20, 2014

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Mt 21:23-27


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First Reading:: Judg 13: 2-7, 24-25A
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Mt 21:23-27

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