The books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—composed as they were in the postexilic period of Israel’s history—were intended, among other purposes, to bring hope to a people whose national and even personal lives had been shattered by the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the subsequent deportation of much of the Jewish population. That hope centered not only on the return of the exiles and restoration of their religious and political community but pre-eminently in the eschatological promise of a messianic redeemer and ruler.
The foregoing reasons make these brief prophetic writings particularly relevant and beneficial to modern Christians, for they can see in them the covenant faithfulness of God to His ancient people—a faithfulness exhibited in the coming of Jesus Christ—and they can take heart in the realization that the God who restored Israel long ago can also restore them in times of spiritual decline and personal tragedy. This has been my experience, at least, as I have been confronted with the power and presence of the God of Israel and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The undertaking of a commentary on these books has proven to be more than a mere task. Instead, it has turned into an opportunity to be reminded in a fresh way of the perfection of God’s eternal purposes.
The successful completion of a project of this nature is dependent on many others besides the author. I wish first to thank Bruce Winter, David DeBoys, Iain Hodgins, and other staff members and colleagues at Tyndale House, Cambridge, for their hospitality and invigorating fellowship in the year 1989-90. Also, I thank the administration and faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary for a year’s sabbatical that offered the time and resources to pursue the project. These resources include Amy Hall and Sue Knepp, whose patient word processing—always done with competence and cheerfulness—contributed more than words can say. Finally, I stand in gratitude to my wife Janet and to family and friends who have encouraged me along the way. To all who have been a part, this work is affectionately dedicated.
Editor's Note: Dr. Merrill occasionally uses the term "Palestine" to anachronistically refer to Israel in this study. This is due to the general, non-pejorative use of the term which was more common in preceding years (due to the previous name of the region [A.D. 135-1948]). From personal experience we know that Dr. Merrill has often visited Israel, and maintains a love for the land and people. He has likewise enjoyed a warm relationship with many rabbi's, pastors, and scholars from diverse backgrounds and beliefs. Consequently, we have left these manuscripts as originally written. Yet we pray that this clarification will alleviate any misunderstanding that might occur.