Of the 12 Minor Prophets, the first 9 spoke before Judah was carried away captive, exiled to Babylon. The last 3 Minor Prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) each spoke to those who returned from the 70-year exile.
Haggai 1 (English Standard Version)
The Command to Rebuild the Temple
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 postexilic community 18 years after the initial return from exile.
–The Archaeological Study Bible, “An Introduction to Haggai”
1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month (August 29, 520 B.C.), the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2“Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.”
The citizens of Jerusalem told themselves that it wasn’t time to resume work on the temple. There were some good reasons why they might say this, and why the work of rebuilding the temple was hard:
- The land was still desolate after 70 years of neglect
- The work was hard
- They didn’t have a lot of money (Haggai 1:6) or manpower
- They suffered crop failures and drought (Haggai 1:10-11)
- Hostile enemies resisted the work (Ezra 4:1-5)
- They remembered easier times in Babylon
3Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
Psalm 132:3-5 (New International Version)
“I will not enter my house
or go to my bed,
I will allow no sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the LORD,
a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
5Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.
The Hebrew figure of speech for this phrase is literally “put your heart on your roads.” Haggai asks God’s people to consider what direction their life is headed, and if they really want it to continue that way.
6You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
7“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 8Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD.
Psalm 132:13-14 (New Living Translation)
For the Lord has chosen Jerusalem;
he has desired it for his home.
“This is my resting place forever,” he said.
“I will live here, for this is the home I desired.
9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
Grain, wine, and olive oil were the three basic crops of the land.
The opening statement of the sermon quotes the people concerning the task of building the temple. After the first return in 538 B.C., an abortive attempt had been made to rebuild. Due to the lack of economic resources, it was left unfinished. The people saw the continued economic plight as reason enough for the continued delay. Haggai had a contrasting point of view. The people thought that economics prohibited religious activity, whereas Haggai proclaimed that their economic plight was caused by their lack of religious commitment.
The theological basis of Haggai’s message lies in the Deuteronomic expression of the Mosaic covenant. How the nation responded to the demands of God as expressed in the covenant determined God’s response to them; obedience brought national peace and prosperity, but disobedience meant economic and political disaster along with disease and pestilence (Deut. 28). Haggai applies this theology in his sermon. The people survived, but they never had enough to satisfy their desires. Harvests were inadequate, and their money’s value eroded through inflation (v. 6). This was not due to the normal course of affairs, but because of God’s direct intervention. He was responsible for the droughts and poor harvests (vv. 9-11).
–Asbury Bible Commentary
Psalm 128:1-2 (Contemporary English Version)
The LORD will bless you
if you respect him
and obey his laws.
Your fields will produce,
and you will be happy
and all will go well.
The People Obey the LORD
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, 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 feared the LORD. 13Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.”
14And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king (September 21, 520 B.C.).
The task of completing the temple became a joint venture as God himself encouraged (stirred up the spirit) the leaders and the people.
“Consuming Fire” by Hillsong. Will we allow the Lord to stir US up?
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.