The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Haggai 1

Hag 1:1

See Lesson, Prophet, the.

See Lesson, Minor prophets, and their messages.

See Lesson, Post-exile period, dates.

Vv 1-11: First message: the call to rebuild the temple.

IN THE SECOND YEAR OF KING DARIUS, ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE SIXTH MONTH: The Lord gave Haggai this message on the first day of the sixth month in the second year that Darius I (Hystaspes) ruled as king over Persia. This was Elul 1 (Aug 29), 502 BC. Each new month began with a new moon, and the Israelites commonly celebrated the occasion with a new moon festival (cp Isa 1:14; Hos 2:11). This first prophetic revelation that God gave in the Promised Land following the return from exile came on a day when most of the Israelites would have been in Jerusalem. The meaning of Haggai's name (festal, or festal one) was appropriate in view of when the Lord gave this first prophecy through him.

Zechariah began his prophecy two months later (Zec 1:1).

ZERUBBABEL: The political governor (overseer) of the Persian province of Judah who had led they returnees back to the land (Ezra 2:2; etc). He was the son of Shealtiel (Ezra 3:2, 8; 5:2; Neh 12:1; etc) and the grandson of King Jehoiachin (Jeconiah), one of the descendants of King David (cp 1Ch 3:17-19; Mat 1:12).

JOSHUA: The high priest of the restoration community and a descendant of Aaron. He was the son of Jehozadak, who had gone into Babylonian captivity in 586 BC (1Ch 6:15; cp Ezra 3:2,8; 12:1,8).

Paired with Zerubbabel, Joshua typified the Lord Jesus Christ, in his dual role of King and Priest (cp Psa 110; Heb 7) -- reestablishing the Kingdom of Israel and rebuilding the Temple of God.

Hag 1:2

THE TIME HAS NOT YET COME FOR THE LORD'S HOUSE TO BE BUILT: Construction on the temple had begun 16 years earlier but had ceased -- due most likely to opposition from the Israelites' neighbors who were mostly Samaritans (Ezra 3:8-13; 4:1-5,24). The people seem to have been waiting for some indication from God that they should resume building, but in the meantime they were busy building their own houses and had forgotten God's previous commands to rebuild the temple. They were very practical when it came to building homes for themselves. They saw the need and proceeded to do something about it. But when it came to building a house that would honor Yahweh, enable them to worship Him as He had commanded, and exalt His reputation in their land, they were waiting. Seventeen years had passed. It was time to finish the unfinished temple structure, but the people put it on hold while they gave priority to what was more important to them.

"We often get our priorities out of order. We wait for direction from God to act when He has already told us what He wants us to do. While we wait, we get involved in matters that occupy our energy and resources that are self-directed. What we should be doing is reading the Word, learning what God wants us to do, and then putting first things first. We need to make His agenda our agenda. When we do this, He will be with us and will provide all we need to carry out His will successfully (cp Mat 6:33)" (GCM).

Hag 1:4

IS IT A TIME FOR YOU YOURSELVES TO BE LIVING IN YOUR PANELED HOUSES, WHILE THIS HOUSE REMAINS A RUIN?: "The doctrine of Purgatory is false. So is that of the larger hope. Akin to these untruths is the notion that we can idle away our Master's time without imperilling our salvation. Whilst contemptuously thrusting aside the first two errors, let us not nurse the last. They are equally bad and fatal. Unbelief -- a refusal to take God at His word -- is at the bottom of them all. Each is a repetition of the old, old story: 'Ye shall not surely die.' We require to be very much on our guard against these and similar truth-hating, ease-loving, duty-procrastinating doctrines. Now is the day of salvation -- the day for work and for exhibiting faithfulness -- and we shall have no other. No work -- no wage: this is the inexorable decree of the Scriptures. Are we disposed to idleness? -- to look on with folded arms whilst others toil?

"Are we merely living on the labor of others? -- allowing day after day to pass without the slightest effort to further the interests of our absent Master? If so, let us bestir ourselves ere it is too late. Night, when no man can work, is approaching for us all. In the hour of death, and much more in the hour of judgment, the sluggards of Christ's household will bewail their folly. 'Woe to the christian brother (said Bro Thomas) who presents himself at the tribunal of Christ with nothing else to offer but a hidden truth.' Are we drones? Then let the shameful end of the slothful servant in the parable of our Lord sober and energize us (Mat 25:26). Let us unstop our ears to the voice which speaks so solemnly from heaven: 'Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be' " (ATJ).

PANELED HOUSES: This apparently describes quite luxurious homes, though the Heb word "sapan" ("paneled") can mean simply houses with roofs. Wooden paneling or plaster that covered the walls and possibly the ceilings seems to be in view. "Many Christians are like those ancient Hebrews, somehow convincing themselves that economy in constructing church buildings [or financing God's work] is all-important while at the same time sparing no expense in acquiring their personal luxuries" (EBC).

Hag 1:5

GIVE CAREFUL THOUGHT TO YOUR WAYS: "Consider your ways" (AV). The LORD called "the people" to evaluated what they were doing in the light of their present situation -- to carefully and honestly and ruthlessly evaluate their motives and their actions. This warning comes five times in one short prophetic book (v 7; Hag 2;15,18,18).

Hag 1:6

YOU HAVE PLANTED MUCH, BUT HAVE HARVESTED LITTLE. YOU EAT, BUT NEVER HAVE ENOUGH. YOU DRINK, BUT NEVER HAVE YOUR FILL. YOU PUT ON CLOTHES, BUT ARE NOT WARM. YOU EARN WAGES, ONLY TO PUT THEM IN A PURSE WITH HOLES IN IT: They were not experiencing God's blessings very greatly. They sowed much seed but harvested only modest crops (cp vv 10,11; Hag 2:15-17,19). The food and drink that they grew only met their minimal needs. They had so little fiber from which to make clothing that their clothes were very thin and did not keep them warm. Their purses seemed to have holes in them in the sense that the money they put in them disappeared before they could pay all their bills. This was divine chastening for disobedience (cp Lev 26:18-20,26; Deu 28:38-41). They should have put Yahweh first; they should have rendered to Him His due, and then He would have abundantly repaid and blessed them (Mal 3:10; Pro 3:9,10).

Hag 1:8

GO UP TO THE MOUNTAINS AND BRING DOWN TIMBER AND BUILD THE HOUSE: Yahweh urged them to go to the mountains where trees grew abundantly, to cut them down, and to continue rebuilding the temple (cp Ezra 3:7). The emphasis was not so much on skill in craftsmanship, as on willingness to do the work, and to see that it was done. The completed temple would please and glorify Him -- not just in its appearance, but in what it implied: the combined labor of many faithful ones.

Hag 1:9

WHAT YOU BROUGHT HOME I BLEW AWAY: Apparently their grain was so light and small that much of it blew away with the chaff when they threshed it.

WHY?... BECAUSE OF MY HOUSE, WHICH REMAINS A RUIN, WHILE EACH OF YOU IS BUSY WITH HIS OWN HOUSE: The reason was clear. They had neglected the temple and had given all their time and energy to providing for themselves by building their own houses. God had brought these material reverses upon them so that they might be properly exercised and instructed thereby (Hag 2:17; Lev 26:3-5; Mal 3:10; Mat 4:4).

Hag 1:10

Vv 10,11: The hot weather and poor harvests that the returned exiles were enduring were due to their selfish behavior (cp Lev 26:19,20; Deu 28:22-24). Dew was the only form of moisture that plants enjoyed during the hot summer months, beside artificial irrigation, but even that was unavailable. Yahweh had decreed drought that affected all their essential products and all aspects of their lives.

Spiritually speaking, the most dreadful drought and famine has to do with hearing the word of God (Amos 8:11).

Hag 1:12

Vv 12-15: The response of Zerubbabel and the people.

THE WHOLE REMNANT OF THE PEOPLE OBEYED THE VOICE OF THE LORD THEIR GOD: Haggai referred to the people as a remnant (here and also in v 14 and in Hag 2:2), not merely because they were survivors of the Babylonian Exile but also because they were becoming what the remnant of God's people should always be -- those who are obedient within their covenant relationship to the Lord (cp Isa 10:21).

Hag 1:13

"I AM WITH YOU," DECLARES THE LORD: The people's obedient response resulted in the LORD sending another message to Haggai, His messenger. He reported that Yahweh was with them (cp Hag 2:4). This assurance of His divine enablement guaranteed their success as they continued obeying by rebuilding the temple. It is God's presence with us more than anything else that guarantees our success as we carry out His will (cp Jos 1:1-9). Our loving obedience results in Him drawing close, but our disobedience leads Him to withdraw His presence.

Hag 1:14

Vv 14,15: Yahweh stirred up the two leaders and the people to resume work on the temple (cp Ezra 1:5). Despite the continuing opposition of the Samaritans in the land (Ezra 5:3), work began again on the twenty-fourth day of that very month. Perhaps it took three weeks for the people to make their decision and make preparations, including cutting wood (cp v 8). There was also a harvest of figs, grapes, and pomegranates in the month of Elul, which may also have delayed them.

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