Haggai (The Book & The Prophet)

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

 

The book of Haggai is short and consists of just two chapters, and one soon learns that the prophet was particularly concerned with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, especially after it had come to a halt shortly after 538 BC.

Even with Cyrus’ favour and financial aid, rebuilding life in Jerusalem was still difficult, and thus Haggai’s voice in Jerusalem, urging the continuation of the building of the temple, attempted to address this. In 520 BC, Haggai delivered five speeches, which are now collected in the book of Haggai, urging Jewish leaders to continue with the building project. It seems that at the time the people became preoccupied with building their own homes and re-establishing social life, and put these efforts above the reconstruction of the temple and religious life. Haggai in fact declared that a drought, sent by God in punishment, was a result of the people’s neglect to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians (1:11). Thus, Haggai’s attempt was to re-adjust their priorities, and to place the building of the Temple at the ‘top of the list’:

“So says Jehovah of Hosts, saying: This people says, The time has not come, the time that Jehovah’s house should be built. Then came the Word of Jehovah by Haggai the prophet, saying,  Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your finished houses, and shall this House lie waste?” (1:2-4)

“You looked for much, and behold, little! And when you brought it home, then I blew on it. Why, says Jehovah of Hosts? Because of My House that is waste, and you, each man runs to his own house.” (1:9)

Haggai’s attempts were successful, and due to his prophetic intervention the Temple continued construction until 515 BC (1:14-15). This was known as the Second Temple which spans the years from 515 BC to 70 AD (the moment when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple). Additional themes and ideas, which together comprise the Jerusalemite priestly perspective, such as the nation might once again prosper and that the nation be based upon the presence of Yahweh, are evidenced in the texts of Haggai. For instance, Haggai saw Zerubbabel as Yahweh’s signet ring, and that through him Yahweh would raise the Jewish people to power again:

“And a second time the Word of Jehovah came to Haggai in the twenty-fourth of the month, saying, Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth. And I will overthrow the throne of the kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations. And I will overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall come down, each one by the sword of his brother. In that day, says Jehovah of Hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel, says Jehovah, and will make you like a signet; for I have chosen you, says Jehovah of Hosts” (2:20-22).

Haggai believed that Zerubbabel was God’s chosen person to lead the people.

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