Introduction to Haggai
Haggai was, chronologically, the first of the three post-exilic prophets, the others being his contemporaries Zechariah, and then later, the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi. Haggai was called by God to rebuke and then encourage the Jews in connection with their divine commission to rebuild the temple. The circumstances are outlined in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Little is known of Haggai personally, except that he identified himself as a prophet some five times (Haggai 1:1,3,12; 2:1,10), the only one of the writing prophets to do so except for Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:1). His ministry lasted only a few months, but was successful in accomplishing the purpose of activating the people to work. Note references to his ministry in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14.
It is interesting to note that, while there are five books in the Bible with only one chapter, and seven with three chapters, Haggai is the only book with two chapters.
It is possible that Haggai was very old at the time when he wrote his prophecy, and that he was one of the few returnees who had seen the original temple in all its glory (Haggai 2:3; Ezra 3:12,13). If so, this would account, at least in part, for both the urgency of his message and the brevity of his ministry.
1:1 Darius the king. “Darius the king” was Darius Hystaspes, who ruled the Persian empire from 521 to 486 B.C., also known as “Darius the Great.”
1:1 by Haggai. Haggai preceded Zechariah and then Malachi as the three post-exilic prophets, ministering to the returning Jews who rebuilt Jerusalem and its temple. Both Haggai and his younger contemporary, Zechariah, are mentioned in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14. Haggai was probably very old when he wrote his short book—the shortest Old Testament book except Obadiah—and the only two-chapter book in the Bible.
1:1 Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel the governor had led the first contingent of returning exiles from Babylon, following the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:2; 2:2). Here, he is called “the son of Shealtiel (or Salathiel),” whereas I Chronicles 3:17-19 indicates that Salathiel was his uncle, with Pedaiah his father. A possible explanation is that Salathiel became his “foster father,” as it were, after Pedaiah died. Another possibility is that, through a Levirate marriage (as described in Deuteronomy 25:5,6), Shealtiel died without a son, and Pedaiah married his widow, giving their first-born son the name of Shealtiel as his legal father.
1:2 time is not come. The temple had been started soon after the edict of Cyrus in 536 B.C., but opposition in the land and other problems had discouraged the people and they soon quit building, with the temple still very incomplete (Ezra 4:24). This was the occasion for Haggai’s prophecy. Darius also renewed Cyrus’ authorization (Ezra 6:1-14) to continue the work, and the temple project was soon resumed and finally finished.
1:4 cieled house. The “cieled” houses were paneled with fine woods normally found only in palaces.
1:5 Consider your ways. This is the first of five admonitions in Haggai’s brief prophecy to “consider” what they were doing (Haggai 1:5,7; 2:15,18).
1:13 The LORD’s messenger. Haggai’s message did, indeed, stir Zerubbabel and Joshua (the political and spiritual leaders of the people), as well as all the people, to work again on the Lord’s house, and then the Lord blessed them again. The younger prophet Zechariah also was preaching a similar message (Zechariah 1:1-6; 4:8-9; 9:9-17).