The Book of Haggai is a book in the Old Testament of the Bible, categorised within the Minor Prophets. The Books of Haggai tells the story of the Prophet Haggai’s attempts to persuade the Jewish people to rebuild the Jerusalem temple after their return to Judea.
The Prophet Haggai
The character of Haggai was a Hebrew prophet in the Bible. His name has various translations including “my holiday”, “festive”, “feast” and “festival”. It has been suggested that the name is a shortened form of “Haggiah” meaning “festival of Jehovah”.
Haggai was the first of three prophets, along with Zechariah and Malachi, who belonged to the period of Jewish history which began after the return from captivity in Babylon. According to Jewish and Christian tradition, the prophests Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are buried in a tomb on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
Haggai is named as a saint and prophet in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar and commemorated, along with the other Minor prophets, commemorated in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 31.
The Book of Haggai is traditionally attributed to the prophet Haggai, although the book contains no biographical information about him. Haggai is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14.
The author of the Book of Haggai dates his work in Haggai 1:1 as the "second year of Darius the king." This is assumed to be Darius I, son of Hystaspes, who reigned between 522 and 486 BCE. The Book of Haggai is therefore dated in the year 520 BCE.
Summary of chapters
The first chapter of the Book of Haggia starts with God speaking to Zerubbabel (through Haggai) and telling him that the Jewish people, who have recently returned to Judea after their exile, have not yet started rebuilding the Jerusalem temple. He complains that the people are rebuilding their own homes but are ignoring the job of rebuilding the temple. God says that the problems the people have been having in their lives, such as hunger and thirst, are due to this oversight. He orders them to start rebuilding the temple so that He “may take pleasure in it and be honoured”. God attributes a recent drought to the fact the temple has not yet been rebuilt.
Zerbbabel relays this message to the people, who fear God and decide to do as He commands. Twenty three days later, on the twenty fourth day of the sixth month, they start work on the temple.
God comes to Haggai again and tells him to go to the people, including Zerubbabel (the governor of Judea) and Joshua (the high priest). He compliments the temple and tells them that He is with them. God promises that soon He will shake the whole world in order to gather silver and gold for the temple. He says that the new temple will be greater than the former and promises to bring prosperity to Judea.
Next, God has a conversation with the priests (again, via Haggai) about cleanliness. It is decided that if a person carried something that is holy, which then touches something else, the things it touches do not become holy. However, if a person carried something that is unclean and therefore unholy, and it then touches something else, that thing becomes unclean too. Once that’s all cleared up, God also reminds everyone that before, when He sent “blight and mildew and hail” upon his people, they didn’t return to Him, but from now on He says that He will bless them.
The last time God comes to Haggai it is with a message for Zerubbabel. God wants him to know that He is about to shake the whole world and overthrow other kingdoms. He says that “the horses and their riders will fall” and that all those who die will do so “by the sword of a comrade”. God finishes by saying that He has chosen Zerubbabel as his servant.
The rebuilding of the temple
The second temple in Jerusalem was completed, according to Ezra 6:15, in 516 BCE, twenty years after it was started and seventy years after the first temple’s destruction in 586 BCE. The new temple stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE, until it was destroyed by the Romans under Titus.