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An Introduction to the Book of Haggai

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I. TITLE OF THE BOOK:

A. Hebrew: In Hebrew the book is titled ygj after the name of the prophet which probably meant my feast1

B. Greek: In Greek the book is titled AGGAIOS, a transliteration from the Hebrew, from which we get our English spelling of Haggai

II. AUTHOR: Probably Haggai himself

A. He is given no introduction other than the prophet (cf. 1:1; Ezra 5:1; 6:14)2

B. He may have been a returnee from Babylon3

C. He may have been a priest4

D. Even though the book was written in the third person (e.g., about Haggai) it is possible that Haggai did this to give the impression of objectivity5

III. DATE: August 29 to December 18, 520 B.C.

A. Haggai preached his sermons during the second year of Darius I (521-486 B.C.)

B. Haggai's messages were preached within a fifteen week period 29 August to 18 December 520 B.C. This is determined from the dates given in Haggai; the biblical dates from Haggai and Zechariah, and Julian calendar dates are provided below in the following chart:6

Reference

Year of Darius

Month

Date of New Moon

Day

Equivalent Date, BC

Hag. 1:1

second

sixth

29 Aug.

1st

29 Aug. 520

Hag. 1:15

24th

21 Sept. 520

Hag. 2:1

seventh

27 Sept.

21st

17 Oct. 520

Zec. 1:1

eighth

27 Oct.

-----

-----

Hag. 2:10,20

ninth

25 Nov.

24th

18 Dec. 520

Zec. 1:7

eleventh

23 Jan.

24th

15 Feb. 519

Zec. 7:1

fourth

ninth

4 Dec.

4th

7 Dec. 518

C. It is unknown what happened to Haggai after his last message on 18 December 520. Baldwin writes, Once Temple building began in earnest he had fulfilled his mission, and, having in Zechariah a successor to continue the work, he withdrew from the scene7

D. The message in 1:13 does not have a certain date. Chisholm offers the following solution:
Since the other messages in the book can be dated, the chronological notation of 1:1 may apply to this message as well. However, since the people's positive response to the message came on September 21, 520 B.C. (the sixth month, twenty fourth day; cf. 1:14-15), it could have been delivered any time between August 29 and that date8

IV. HISTORICAL SETTING:

A. First Return: The first return from Babylonian exile was under Zerubbabel in 538 B.C. when Cyrus was King (539-530) (Ezra 1--6)

1. Return of Haggai: This was probably when Haggai returned to Jerusalem9

2. Temple Rebuilt: Haggai and Zechariah prophesy and the Temple was completed under Darius I (521-486)

a. Levitical sacrifices were reinstituted on an altar built for burnt offerings (Ezra 3:1-6)

b. The foundation for the temple was laid in the second year of the return (536 B.C.; cf. Ezra 3:8-13; 5:16)

c. Samaritan and Persian resistance ended the rebuilding of the temple for 16 years (until 520 B.C.; cf. Ezra 4:4-5)

d. Haggai and Zechariah prophesy from 520-518 B.C. encouraging the nation to rebuild the temple

e. The Temple was completed in 515 B.C. (Ezra 5--6)

B. Second Return: The second return from Babylonian exile was under Ezra in 457 B.C. while Artaxexes I Longimanus was King (Ezra 7--10)

1. Ezra 7:1 affirms that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem during the reign of Artaxerxes the king of Persia

2. Ezra 7:8 affirms that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king (Artaxerxes)

a. The is some question as to whether this was in the reign of Artaxerxes I Longimanus (464-423 B.C.) or Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404-359 B.C.)10

b. The evidence seems to be that this was during the reign of Artaxerxes I Longimanus; therefore, the seventh year of his reign would have been 457 B.C.

1) Nehemiah 8:2 identifies Ezra as Nehemiah's contemporary

2) The Elephantine Papyri11 [c. 400 B.C.] mentions Johanan (the grandson of Eliashib [Neh 3:1, 20])12

C. Third Return: The third return from Babylonian exile was under Nehemiah in 445/444 B.C. also while Artaxerxes I Longimanus was king (Neh 1--13).

1. Nehemiah I: Nehemiah's first arrival in Jerusalem was probably in 444 B.C.

a. Nehemiah 1:2 and 2:1 affirm that the events of Nehemiah occurred in the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes

b. Nehemiah arrived the first time in Jerusalem twelve-thirteen years after Ezra arrived

2. Nehemiah II: Nehemiah's second arrival in Jerusalem was probably in 433/432-420 B.C.

a. Nehemiah 13:6-7 reads, But during all this time I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had gone to the king. After some time, however, I asked leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and learned about the evil ....

b. Nehemiah left Jerusalem in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes

c. Nehemiah may also have returned to Jerusalem in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes (this is not certain since the text reads, After some time, ...

V. PURPOSES:

A. To encourage the returned remnant to move from a resigned satisfaction with their return to the land to an expression of faith by making an effort to rebuild the temple13

B. To encourage the returned remnant toward the reestablishment of temple worship as the nation's main goal

C. To encourage the returned remnant that Yahweh will bless them and the land as they move towards rebuilding the temple

D. To encourage the returned remnant that Yahweh has a future place of importance for them in spite of their past rebellion


1 Baldwin writes, His name is one of several in the Old Testament derived from hag, 'festival': Hggi (Gen. 46:16; Nu. 26:15), Haggith (2 Sa. 3:4), Haggiah (1 Ch. 6:30). He was probably born on a feast day and therefore named 'my feast' (Lat. Festus, Gk. Hilary). It is even possible that Haggai was a nickname (Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 27-28).

2 Baldwin writes, The absence of a patronym may indicate that his father was already forgotten, that prophets were few and therefore, 'the prophet' was sufficiently specific (Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 27).

3 Baldwin writes, According to Jewish tradition he had lived the greater part of his life in Babylon [Rabbi Eli Cashdan, The Twelve Prophets (Soncino Press, 1948), p. 254]. Partly on this tradition and partly on inference from Haggai 2:3 is based the opinion that when he prophesied he was a very old man who had seen the Temple before its destruction, and was given the most important task of his life just before his death. The authority he commanded and his single-minded preoccupation with the Temple rather tend to bear this out (Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 28).

4 Baldwin writes, According to an early Christian tradition Haggai was a priest and was buried with honour near the sepulchers of the priests. The fact that in the Versions certain Psalms are attributed to Haggai may add support to his priestly lineage. The LXX, for example, prefaces Psalms 138 and 146-149 with the names Haggai and Zechariah, indicating perhaps that they were responsible for the recension from which the Greek translation was being made. Hebrew tradition on the other hand did not reckon Haggai among the priests, and the modern Rabbi Eli Cashdan writes: 'Evidently he was not of the priestly tribe, seeing that he called on the priests of his day for a ruling on levitical uncleanness (ii.II).' The point is hardly proved on this evidence, however (Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 28).

5 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 30. Continuing she writes, Recently W. A. M. Beuken has argued that Haggai and Zechariah 1--8 were edited 'in a Chronistic milieu'. His argument is that the same major interest in the Temple, its ritual, and the continuity of the Davidic line dominate both these prophets and the books of Chronicles. This is true, but if Beuken is implying that the editors selected according to their individual preference the themes they would record, this is to undermine confidence in the books as they have come down to us. We believe it to be both more likely and more logical that Haggai was edited early, possibly before 500 B.C. and that he and Zechariah together moulded the thinking of those who edited the books of Chronicles (Ibid.).

6 This chart comes from Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 29.

7 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 29.

8 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 219.

9 Robert L. Alden, Haggai, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:572.

10 See Albright's early discussions. He seems to have changed his mind about this matter.

11 LaSor et al write, These business documents and letters were found on the island of Elephantine, north of the first cataract of the Nile and opposite Aswan. They belonged to a Jewish military colony established at least as early as the fall of Jerusalem in 586. The texts throw brilliant light on the affairs of the Jewish colony in Upper Egypt, especially for the period 425-400. In 410 these Jews wrote a letter to Johanan, high priest at Jerusalem (Neh. 12:22), regarding the rebuilding of their temple. In 407 they sent a long appeal in the same regard to Bagoas, governor of Judah, in which they mentioned a similar letter to 'Delaiah and Shelemiah, the sons of Sanballat the governor of Samaria. Assuming this is the same Sanballat who was the inveterate enemy of Nehemiah (2:19; 4:1 [MT 3:33]), the Artaxerxes referred to in 2:1 must be Artaxerxes I (LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 560, n. 33; See also ANET, pp. 491ff).

12 Archer writes, This Johanan was a grandson of the Eliashib mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1 and 20 and Nehemiah was a contemporary of Eliashib. It therefore follows that when the biblical record speaks of Nehemiah going to Jerusalem in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (Neh 1:1) and again in his thirty-second year (Neh. 13:6), the reference must be to Artaxerxes I (yielding the date 445 and 433 respectively) rather than the reign of Artaxerxes II (which would result in the dates 384 and 372 respectively--far too late for the high priesthood of Johanan) (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 419-20).

13 Alden writes, Against these odds and in the midst of this despair, Haggai chided the people of God to resume the task enthusiastically taken up so many years ago and subsequently dropped. His message was simply 'build God's house.' To support his case he contended that recent crop failures (1:9) and drought (1:10-11) were God's way of reminding them of their dependence on him (Robert L. Alden,Haggai, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:573).

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