The book of Haggai (Haggai 1)

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There is little question that Haggai the prophet wrote the book that bears his name. We know nothing about him beyond what we find in his book.

Haggai precisely dated his messages, all of which were delivered between August and December of 520 B.C.

Zerubbabel had returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. along with about 50,000 Jews to rebuild the temple. Over the years the returnees had become discouraged by opposition and had abandoned the project. Haggai’s messages were delivered to encourage the Jews to complete the temple rebuilding project.

Haggai’s words were directed to the post-exilic  community 18 years after the initial return from exile. The temple had still not been repaired, and the leadership was deeply discouraged, not only by local opposition but also by the lethargy of his own people. Darius of Persia was interested in the religions of his empire, and, in light of the impetus offered by his support, the Jews themselves were more to blame for their inactivity than were their opponents.

The prophet’s message was essentially an exhortation to persevere in the effort to re-establish the community and the temple. From  the perspective of some interpreters, however, Haggai’s message was more than that: it was in their view a call to open rebellion against Persian authority. Those who espouse this viewpoint see Haggai as a Messianic zealot who believed that the eschatological kingdom would dawn if only Zerubbabel would be bold enough to cast off foreign domination. This interpretation, however, seems to read far more into the text that is justified (see Did Haggai lead a Messianic rebellion? under Haggai 2).

As you read you might want to approach this short book equipped with a ledger, either mental or physical, on which you “list” the consequences of obedience and disobedience. Considering the pros and cons, does a clear “winner” come through?

Did you know that in the arid climate of this region, dew is typically abundant during the growing season and is often as valuable as rain (Haggai 1:10)? Did you know that a garment coming into contact with “consecrated meat” (meat from an animal set apart for a sacrifice) became “holy” (see Leviticus 6:27) but could not pass on that holiness to a third object? Ceremonial uncleanness was transmitted much more easily than holiness, since anything touched by an unclean person became unclean (Haggai 2:12-13). Did you know that a signet was a kind of seal, the impression of which in clay or wax functioned as a signature? A signet, worn on one’s finger or on a cord around one’s neck, could be used as a pledge or guarantee of full payment of a debt (2:23).


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