Haggai 1 - Outline of Haggai (Book Notes menu page)
Haggai is the first of the three prophets who ministered to the remnant which returned to Jerusalem, following the Babylonian captivity. He was contemporary with Zechariah. The third prophet, Malachi, wrote about a hundred years later.
     Haggai, whose name means 'My Feast,' was among the people who returned to Jerusalem with Ezra. The focus of his ministry was to encourage the returned remnant to finish the rebuilding of the Temple. Soon after they arrived in Jerusalem, the people had come together to build an altar to the LORD (Ezr 3:1-3) and also to lay the foundation for the Temple (Ezr 3:8-10). But they soon encountered opposition from ungodly neighbors, and the work was halted for the next 15 years (Ezr 4:23,24). Only after the LORD admonished the people through His prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, was the work resumed (Ezr 5:1,2). But the renewed work was soon met with renewed opposition (Ezr 5:3-f). The people continued in the work, as these prophets encouraged them to trust the LORD, who had called them to labor for Him.
     The book of Haggai is the second shortest of the OT books. But its message is far reaching. There are lessons here for Christian service, for the LORD has called all believers to His work. He is building a Temple consisting of 'living stones' (1Pet 2:5). The laborers are few, the adversaries are many. His Word encourages us to continue, for 'your labor is not in vain, in the Lord' (1Cor 15:58).
     This little book also looks to the future completion of the LORD's promises to Israel, which will be realized when their Messiah stands in the Millennial Temple and rules the world from Jerusalem. To some, that day seems like a dream that will never come. However, it will come at the time pre-appointed by the LORD. The historical dating of this book (specified to the year, month and day) reflects upon the specific certainty of its future fulfillment.
1. In the second year of Darius the king,
in the sixth month, in the first day of the month,
came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet
unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,
and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,
2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say,
The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built.
The reign of Darius I (Hystaspes), king of Persia, is well attested in secular history.
Therefore, the dates, of Haggai's five messages, are precisely determined, to the very day. These messages were delivered over a period of 3 months and 14 days, with the first on September 1, 520 BC, and the last on December 24, 520 BC.
     The pre-exilic prophets (who spoke prior to the captivities of Israel and Judah) dated their messages with reference to the kings of Israel and/or Judah (eg., Isa 1:1; Hos 1:1). But following the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, there was no longer a king in Israel (Hos 3:4). The post-exilic prophets were writing in "the times of the Gentiles," which will continue until Israel receives her King (Luk 21:24).
...came the Word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet...
This phrase, or its equivalent, occurs repeatedly in this short book, sometimes more than once in a single verse. Haggai is careful to tell us that he was not speaking from himself. He was simply relaying the Word of the living God, who possesses all power and authority.
...unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,
and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest...
These two men were the chief political and religious leaders among the returned remnant. Their names occur frequently in the books of Ezra and Zechariah.
  • Zerubbabel {meaning 'sown in Babylon'} was born in captivity, to Shealtiel {meaning 'I have asked of God'}.
    Shealtiel (whose name is sometimes spelled Salathiel) was a son of king Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah or Coniah). As a grandson of Jehoiachin, Zerubbabel was in the line of the Davidic kings. [In 1Chr 3:17-19, Zerubbabel is listed as a son of Pedaiah, who was Shealtiel's brother. Most likely, Shealtiel did not survive the captivity, and this is an example of 'levirate marriage.' See Deu 25:5-10].
         Zerubbabel was 'governor of Judah' - When Cyrus authorized Ezra to return with a group of Israelites to Jerusalem, he appointed Zerubbabel to be their governor (in Ezr 1:8; 5:14, Zerubbabel is called by a Babylonian name 'Sheshbazzar,' meaning 'worshipper of fire'). Zerubbabel held a prominent position among the first returnees (Ezr 2:2; 3:2).
  • Jeshua {or 'Joshua,' meaning 'Jehovah saves'} as the high priest, was the spiritual leader of the people.
    Joshua's father, Josedech {meaning 'Jehovah is righteous'} (sometimes spelled 'Jozadak' or 'Jehozadek'), was the high priest at the time of the Babylonian captivity (1Chr 6:15).
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say... (v.2) -
'This people...'- They were the LORD's people, but they had distanced themselves from Him, through disobedience to His will. Therefore, He directs the leaders of the people to attend to their flock, which was in need of correction.
     The same word {meaning 'to speak' or 'to communicate'} occurs three times in rapid succession: 'speaketh,' 'saying,' and 'say.' The problem was that the words spoken by the people, to justify their disobedience, were in conflict with the LORD's Word.
...This people say, The time is not come... that the LORD's house should be built.
They had started the work, but when they encountered severe opposition, they reasoned that it was not yet God's appointed time to build. They told each other that it was not God's Will. Yet, more than 15 years earlier, the LORD had moved Cyrus, king of Persia, with the need to build the House of the LORD in Jerusalem. To that end, the king had called for, commissioned, and provisioned, willing workers from among the Jewish captives, who in turn, had committed themselves to this task (Ezra ch. 1).
     There was no question that the time had come. To say, 'it must not be God's will,' was nothing but a pious sounding excuse. How often do we use that excuse, to avoid the difficulties and expense of the work to which He has called and commissioned us?
3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
4 [Is it] time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house [lie] waste?
5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough;
ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm;
and he that earneth wages earneth wages [to put it] into a bag with holes.
7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Is it time for you... to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?
Those who said it was not the time to rebuild the Temple, had built their own houses, despite the difficult times. The houses they had built for themselves were 'cieled' (ie., paneled). They were not camping in bare frontier cabins. Was it right for them to sit in the lap of luxury, while the LORD's house remained in ruins?
     Was it God's Will for them to dwell at ease, while they neglected God's work? They had convinced themselves that God's way was the smooth path. But often, the LORD's Will, for His people, is through the difficult and costly way. It was not easy for Moses to lead the murmuring people through the wilderness. It was not easy for Jeremiah, or the other prophets, to stand against the tide of public opinion. (Some NT examples: Mat 16:25-27; 26:38-42; Joh 15:18-20; 1Pet 2:20-24; Acts 14:21,22; 2Cor 11:23-29).
     How much trouble and expense am I willing to endure, to secure my self-interests versus to advance the LORD's work?
...Consider your ways...
The phrase is literally, 'set your heart upon' your ways. (A similar idiom is used in Eze 40:4; Dan 6:14; 10:12.) They were to earnestly examine the motives and effects of their presumptive disobedience. Psa 119:59,60
...ye have sown much, and bring in little... he that earneth wages...to put it into a bag with holes.
The LORD was chastening them, as He had chastened the nation prior to the captivities (eg., Lev 26:18-20; Deu 28:38-41).
     They had been experiencing crop failures, food shortages, and economic inflation. Despite their best efforts, they were falling behind, unable to fully provide the basic needs of their families.
     But up to this point, they had not recognized that the source of these troubles was their disobedience. Because their way was in conflict with God's way, He had withheld His blessing.
     Too often, this is our experience, also (Heb 12:7). Failing to discern God's will, our natural tendency is to follow our fleshly wisdom and inclinations. In doing so, we deceive ourselves (Prov 3:7-10; Mat 6:19-21,31-33).
Thus saith the LORD of Hosts, Consider your ways...-
He repeats His command (v.5,7), emphasizing its essential importance.
He calls us to forsake our ways, for His way (Isa 55:7-9; Jer 10:23,24).
If we heed His call, the LORD {the ever living One} of Hosts {HB=tsaba', armies, that which goes forth} can send us forth to His work.
8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house;
and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, [it came] to little;
and when ye brought [it] home, I did blow upon it.
Why? saith the LORD of hosts.
Because of mine house that [is] waste,
and ye run every man unto his own house.
10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew,
and the earth is stayed [from] her fruit.
11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains,
and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil,
and upon [that] which the ground bringeth forth,
and upon men, and upon cattle,
and upon all the labour of the hands.
The LORD gave them three commands...
  1. Go up {ie., ascend} to the mountain...-
    This could mean that they were to harvest trees from the forest.
    But, more likely, it means that they were to return to the neglected construction site upon Mount Zion.
  2. Bring wood...-
    Cedar trees had previously been purchased from Lebanon, with funds granted by king Cyrus (Ezr 3:7). Unless they had misused this lumber for building their own houses, it was readily available. They would only need to transport it, from where it was stored, to the construction site.
  3. Build {HB=banah, construct, rebuild, establish} the house.
    Each of these commands required God's people to work. They could not expect the Temple to be completed without their effort. Yet, the project, in which the LORD commanded them to labor, was symbolic of a greater reality. As He promised David, the LORD Himself will build the House of His Kingdom (2Sam 7:27, where the same word is used for 'build').
...and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
God is pleased and glorified, when His people trust and obey Him. Our labors may fall short of our own expectations and hopes (eg., Hag 2:3). But the Master Builder will perfect His purposes, as His servants honor Him with their faithfulness.
Ye looked for much, and lo, it came to little...
In v.9-11, the LORD reviews the cause for their chastening: 'Because... mine house is waste, and ye run {HB=ruts, make haste (ie., busy yourselves)} every man unto his own house.'
('Ye' is plural. Each of us should ask: 'Am I included in that number?' Php 2:21)
...I did blow upon it... I called for a drought...
Lest they should think like the ungodly, and attribute their troubles to poor governmental leadership, climate change, demographic dynamics, or some economic imbalance... the LORD clearly tells them that their shortfalls were due to His direct intervention.
     Is He seeking to get your attention (or mine), through similar chastenings?
12. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel,
and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest,
with all the remnant of the people,
obeyed the voice of the LORD their God,
and the words of Haggai the prophet,
as the LORD their God had sent him,
and the people did fear before the LORD.
This response to the LORD's correction and command is recorded in Ezr 5:1,2.
The leaders were first to acknowledge God's Word and to take action. When the leaders 'rose up' to the work, the people were right behind them.
  • they obeyed {HB=shama', they heard with perception} the voice of the LORD their God.
    They accepted the words spoken by Haggai, as the Word of God (eg., 1The 2:13; Jam 1:22-25).
  • they did fear before the LORD.
    They had reason to be 'fearful' because the LORD had demonstrated His displeasure through their chastening. But here, the sense is not that they were 'afraid,' but rather that they reverenced and honored Him, by their obedience to His Word (eg., Prov 9:10; Gen 22:12; Psa 112:1).
13 Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger
in the LORD'S message unto the people,
saying, I [am] with you, saith the LORD.
14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel
the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,
and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest,
and the spirit of all the remnant of the people;
and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,
15 In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month,
in the second year of Darius the king.
In response to the obedient hearts of His people, the LORD sent a message of encouragement via Haggai.
"'I am with you,' saith the LORD." (also, Hag 2:4)
     Today, the same promise is given to those who are obediently engaged in the work to which He has commissioned us (Mat 28:18-20; Rom 8:31).
...the LORD stirred up {HB='ur, awakened, aroused} the spirit {HB=ruach, spirit, breath (also connotes: life, sense of purpose...)}
Renewed enthusiasm, for the work, came as a blessing from the LORD. It was awakened first in the leaders, and then in all of the people. (Here, 'the remnant' refers to all the Israelites who had returned from Babylon.)
     Several years earlier, the LORD had 'stirred up' king Cyrus and the people who returned with Ezra, with the urgency of rebuilding the Temple (Ezr 1:1,5, where 'raised' [v.5] is also HB='ur). Now, after years of neglect, the work was resumed with renewed passion, as the Spirit of the LORD moved within the hearts of His people (Zech 4:6). In every age, it is the LORD Himself, who energizes, equips and enables His servants for His work (1Cor 12:4-11; Php 2:13; Heb 13:20,21).
...in the four and twentieth day...
This date is 24 days after Haggai's first message (v.1).
     The passage of time, is not an indication that the leaders and people were slow to take God's Word to heart. Rather, this date marks the actual resumption of work, following 3 weeks of organization. There were building plans to review, materials to gather, and tasks to assign to workers.
     On the day that the people 'came and did work' {ie., 'came and were occupied in their employment'} at the Temple site, Haggai received this message of encouragement. As God's people submit to His Word and obey His Will, He assures them of His Presence.

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