Second Wave of Returnees
The prophet Haggai’s timeline places him in the return of Judah from exile to rebuild Jerusalem. He, along with the prophet Zechariah, accompanied the priests Zerubbabel and Joshua back to Jerusalem during Ezra’s time of leadership, as Ezra recorded,
Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set out to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God, helping them. . .
“May the God who has established his name there overthrow any king or people that shall put forth a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”
Then, according to the word sent by King Darius, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what King Darius had ordered. So the elders of the Jews built and prospered, through the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished their building by command of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia.Ezra 5:1-2, 6:12-14 (NRSV)
He delivered four sermons to the people in Jerusalem in 520 BC, 18 years after they had returned from exile. There is evidence in his messages that Haggai was over seventy years old, since he indicated he had witnessed the destruction of the temple, and the captivity of God’s people in 586 BC. We know this because, unlike the other prophets, Haggai made a point of dating his messages.
- August 29, 520 BC
- October 17, 520 BC
- December 18, 520 BC (Perhaps during morning worship)
- December 18, 520 BC (Perhaps during evening worship)
Old in Years, Young In Fervor
We often picture these prophets of old as men with long flowing white hair and beards, ancient sages with a thousand wrinkles and piercing gazes reaching into the distance of time. In truth, many of the prophets were quite young, and not all of them were men. But in Haggai’s case, this visual may be spot on. He was an old man, but filled with the fire and zeal of passion for God, and for the glory of God. His intense longing was for the restoration of God’s people, for Zion, that God’s people would once again become a light unto all nations.
So we begin to get a picture of Haggai, whose name meant festive. His genealogy is unknown, but it seems he was among the survivors of the Babylonian destruction and looting of Jerusalem, and watched as the temple was stripped of its treasure then set on fire. He had to have been young, possibly even a child, but in all the long years of his bondage in Babylonian captivity, his heart remained the Lord’s.
Now, as an aged man, the rare privilege of returning to his inheritance in the Lord, to the Promised Land, though now in ruins, must have been thrilling. Once in Jerusalem, however, he was aghast at the people’s apathy, and the sad disarray of the Lord’s house. He had been waiting all his life to see the temple rising once again into the heavens, welcoming the Lord’s presence.
As his namesake might have indicated, this was no time to settle into a rut of despondency. This was time for celebration! We are home at last, at last the Lord has returned us to the land, and the land to us!
Then he received the anointing of God to proclaim four oracles to the people, “A charge I give to you,” he might have said, “To remember who you are and to Whom you belong!”
With many thanks to a really wonderful resource on YouTube called “The Bible Project,” let us begin our study of Haggai with this overview.