2004-06-13 - Haggai, Part 2
Haggai was concerned because the temple was not finished. Alden (Robert L.
Alden, The Expositors Bible Commentary, Haggai, Zondervan
Interactive Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1990) speaks to this problem.
"According to Ezra 5:16, the foundations of the temple were laid by
Sheshbazzar and his company, and Ezra 3:2 tells how the leaders built the
altar and began sacrificing burnt offerings. Obviously, however, the work
was not completed eighteen years later. Otherwise Haggai would not have preached
the sermons he recorded in his book.Why did the enthusiasm of God's people
wane? Several answers come to mind.
"For one thing, during the seventy years in Babylon, most of the exiles
had come to consider it their home. Further, some Hebrews may have been doing
so well financially, that they were reluctant to return to Jerusalem and
face the dangers involved in rebuilding the temple. Or perhaps they were
preoccupied with the injunction of Jeremiah 29:5-7:
'"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and
eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for
your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have
sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek
the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.
Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will
"The biggest problem the returned exiles faced was the opposition from
the Samaritans and others who lived in the land. Ezra 4 details the course
of events. At first, the "enemies" offered to help build the temple, claiming
that they had been sacrificing to God since the time of Esarhaddon, the Assyrian
king whose exchange-of-population policy had brought them there. But Zerubbabel,
Joshua ("Jeshua" in Ezra) and the other leaders declined the offer, and insisted
on doing the work themselves. This antagonized those who had offered to help,
and they continued to hinder the reconstruction project. They even secured
temporary restraining orders, and in general, they frustrated the plans of
the faithful Jews throughout the reign of Cyrus and down to the reign of
Darius (Ezra 4:5)."
Clearly, there were reasons why the work wasn't proceeding as rapidly as
directed. The problem is that we can get so caught up in circumstances, that
we lose sight of the higher purposes God has given us. Those are the times
we need a Haggai.
And as with some of the other "minor" prophets, very little is know about
"Haggai is unknown to us apart from his short book, the two isolated
occurrences of his name in Ezra (5:1; 6:14), and an allusion in Zechariah
8:9. Linked with Zechariah as he usually was, Haggai's name appears in the
apocryphal books of 1 Esdras (6:1; 7:3) and 2 Esdras (1:40). Ecclesiasticus
(Sirach) 49:11 is a partial quotation of Haggai 2:23.
The word Haggai (haggay) seems to be an adjective from the Hebrew word
for "feast," and therefore the prophet's name may mean "festal." If the yod
(y) on the end suggests a shortened form of Yahweh's name, the prophet's
name would mean "Feast of Yahweh." Many suppose he was born on a feast day.
How old was Haggai when he wrote his book'? If 2:3 indicates that he
saw Solomon's temple be-fore it was destroyed, then he must have been at
least seventy years old at the time of his prophecy. Not all, however, agree
with this view. Those who believe that he was a very old man say the shortness
of the book suggests that death cut short an anticipated longer work. Since
he was usually linked with Zechariah, and since his name comes first, Haggai
was probably the older of the two. "It is likely that he had returned to
Jerusalem with Zerubbabel eighteen years earlier (in 538), but as to his
age, there are no other clues.
The lists of returnees in the opening chapters of Ezra do not mention
Haggai, and we know nothing of his parentage, tribal ancestry, or where his
grandparents lived. Nor is there any information (within or without the Bible)
about his occupation, other than that he was a prophet.
The brief record of Haggai's ministry does, however, show him as a man
of conviction. He has the unique place among the prophets of having been
really listened to and his words obeyed. The people did what he preached,
and in a mere four years, the temple was complete. Though his words were
plain and not poetic, he had one major point to make - and he made it forcefully
Comments or Questions?