Introduction to the Book of Haggai
and Study of Haggai 1-2
September 26th


Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
copyright 2016

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Haggai (Overview)

Haggai is the first of three post-exile prophetic books. The post-exilic period of time covered by these last three prophets was also covered in historical form in Ezra and Nehemiah, which we studied a few months ago. The surviving people had an opportunity for a fresh start in Israel after a 70 year punishment in exile when Cyrus, the leader of Persia, allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland from Babylon in 538 B.C. Many older people were not strong enough to return, and the younger ones had no first-hand memory of their homeland, but the faithful returned.

The Persians had established an extensive road network throughout its empire and set up a three-person ruling party in each satrap (region), which included a governor, a military leader, and a liason back to the king. This structure worked very effectively and allowed the king to pursue other conquests. King Cyrus died in one of these attempted conquests in Afghanistan circa 530 B.C. (1).

Cyrus was succeeded by Cambyses and then Darius I, who was the king served by Nehemiah (see the study of Nehemiah beginning May 18th). Darius' biggest failure was the inability to defeat the Greeks, despite the fact that he had amassed a large army. One of his most famous defeats was at the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Running enthusiasts and historians might recall that a Greek messenger ran the 26.2 mile route back to Athens with the good news, thus establishing a fixed measurement for long-distance running in the Greek Olympics.

While Darius was focused on empire-building, the exiles who returned to Judah were focused on rebuilding their country, and had the freedom to do so under the governorship of Zerubbabel a descendent of David. Cyrus and Darius encouraged the local religions in each satrap as way of hedging themselves with all of the perceived gods. In the two-chapter book of Haggai, the prophet encourages the people to make the rebuilding of Godís temple a priority as they begin to restore their homes and farms.

References used in this study include the following books:

  • Baldwin, Joyce G, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL, 1972

  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984

  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993

  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)


  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)


  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005


Haggai 1-2 (After the Exile)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

ďMy people, why should you be living in well-built houses while my Temple lies in ruins?"

- Haggai 1:4 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

In chapter 1, Haggai asks a rhetorical question to get the people to re-examine their priorities. They live in nice homes while the Temple is in ruins. He also reports that the LORD has observed that they will never be able to satisfy their material desires. Therefore, itís time to gather timber for rebuilding the temple.

    Take a good, hard look at your life.
        Think it over.
    You have spent a lot of money,
        but you havenít much to show for it.
    You keep filling your plates,
        but you never get filled up.
    You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,
        but youíre always thirsty.
    You put on layer after layer of clothes,
        but you canít get warm.

    - Haggai 1:5b-6a (MSG)

Haggai explains that the Israelites expected God to bless them with harvest, but he withheld good weather because they had been procrastinating the restoration of the temple.

In chapter 2, the LORD asks the older people to remember the glory of the previous temple and declares that the new one will be even more glorious on a day when even the heavens shake at the power of the LORD. The people understood that message and finally laid the foundation, resulting in the return of Godís blessing: ďFrom this day on I will bless you (2:19).Ē In the final verses of the book, Haggai records that the LORD appointed Zerubbabel as his chosen one to lead the people.

Reflection and Application

Given a fresh start the people could avoid repeating the mistakes of their ancestors by ensuring that God was their first priority. But instead they were focused on their material needs for food and shelter. Haggai reminded them of what should be important. If we play the role of Monday morning quarterbacks reviewing the Old Testament, then we might harshly criticize these ancient Israelites for their actions, as it may seem ludicrous to us that they still did not comprehend the message. But we might find that they are us.

In verse 1:6, the LORD points out manís insatiable desire for physical satisfaction, as excerpted above. Godís point is that if we wait until we have satisfied all of our other needs then we will never get around to focusing on him.

We canít wait until we are done with everything else. We need to plan our lives in a way that has God as a priority Ė like one of the big foundational rocks in a New England style rock wall. The rest of the activities in our lives can be the smaller stones that fill the gaps. Too often we have those priorities reversed. Stephen Covey (October 24, 1932 Ė July 16, 2012) wrote an excellent book called First Things First that guides us on how to manage our lives according to the important priorities.

Covey points out that we often are occupied by the urgent rather than the important. He said "You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage -- pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologeticaly--to say 'no' to other things. and the way to do that is by having a bigger 'yes' burning inside." This book is recommended reading for anyone who wants to re-evaluate what is important in their life and try to organize their time around those priorities.

Haggai tells his contemporaries that itís time to lay the foundation of the temple. His message applies to all generations, as itís always time to make sure we have made God the foundation of our lives and that we continue to contribute to the expansion of his church in the world.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection


    Related Questions
    1. Have you ever built or repaired a stone wall or something like it?
    2. Where do you put God in your weekly priorities?
    3. What can we do to continue building the presence of Godís church in the world?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you deserve a proper worship center and sincer worship. Help us to build your Church on earth.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Stone Masons

    Footnotes

    (1) Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984, p.431

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Zechariah 1-4 (Donít Repeat Mistakes)

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