Haggai Archeology

    There is little question that Haggai the prophet wrote the book that bears his name. We know nothing about him beyond what we find in his book. 

    Haggai precisely dated his messages, all of which were delivered between August and December of 520 B.C. 

    Zerubbabel had returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. along with about 50,000 Jews to rebuild the temple. Over the years the returnees had become discouraged by opposition and had abandoned the project. Haggai's messages were delivered to encourage the Jews to complete the temple rebuilding project. 

    Haggai's words were directed to the postexilic community 18 years after the initial return from exile. The temple had still not been repaired, and the leadership was deeply discouraged, not only by local opposition but also by the lethargy of its own people. Darius of Persia was interested in the religions of his empire, and, in light of the impetus offered by his support, the Jews themselves were more to blame for their inactivity than were their opponents. 

    The prophet's message was essentially an exhortation to persevere in the effort to reestablish the community and the temple. From the perspective of some interpreters, however, Haggai's message was more than that; it was in their view a call to open rebellion against Persian authority. Those who espouse this viewpoint see Haggai as a Messianic zealot who believed that the eschatological kingdom would dawn if only Zerubbabel would be bold enough to cast off foreign domination. This interpretation, however, seems to read far more into the text than is justified. 

    You might want to approach this short book equipped with a ledger, either mental or physical, on which you "list" the consequences of obedience and disobedience. Considering the pros and cons, does a clear "winner" come through? 

  • In the arid climate of this region, dew is typically abundant during the growing season and is often as valuable as rain (1:10). 
  • A garment coming into contact with "consecrated meat" (meat from an animal set apart for a sacrifice) became "holy" (see Lev 6:27 but could not pass on that holiness to a third object. Ceremonial uncleanness was transmitted much more easily than holiness, since anything touched by an unclean person became unclean (Hag 2:12-13). 
  • A signet was a kind of seal, the impression of which in clay or wax functioned as a signature. A signet, worn on one's finger or on a cord around one's neck, could be used as a pledge or guarantee of full payment of a debt (2:23). 


Haggai's themes include: 

1. Priorities. The people had neglected the rebuilding of God's temple while focusing their efforts on constructing beautiful homes for themselves (1:2-4,9). Haggai instructed them that God's temple and work were to be their top priority. They were to "give careful thought" (1:5,7; 2:15,18) to their ways, for God's pleasure and honor were to be their overriding goals (1:8). 

2. Obedience. There are consequences for disobeying God (1:6,11; 2:16-17). But when God's people follow him (1:12) he graciously provides the enthusiasm (1:14), strength (2:4-5) and resources (2:8) to do his will. God promised the postexilic community that, in return for their obedience, he would bless them with his presence (2:9), peace (2:9) and prosperity (2:19). 


I. First Message: The Call to Rebuild the Temple (1:1-11) 
        II. The Response of Zerubbabel and the People (1:12-15) 
       III. Second Message: The Promised Glory (2:1-9) 
       IV. Third Message: A Defiled People Blessed (2:10-19) 
        V. Fourth Message: The Promise to Zerubbabel (2:20-23) 

 Did Haggai Lead a Messianic Rebellion? 

    HAGGAI 2 The book of Haggai is one of the shortest documents in the Bible, consisting of four messages totaling only about 600 words. It is also one of the most precisely dated books in all of Scripture. Its four oracles are reported to have been received by the prophet within the space of 15 weeks during the fall of the second year of the Persian' king Darius I, who reigned from 521-486 B.C.

    During this period Judah existed as part of a large administrative district or satrapy of the Persian Empire called abar naharah ("Beyond the River"; cf. Ezr 4:10; Ne 2:7). Each satrapy contributed annual tribute and was ruled by a Persian governor. Nevertheless, Persian imperial policy beginning with Cyrus the Great and continuing under Darius encouraged a significant degree of local autonomy.3 An extension of this policy led to Persian support for the construction of local temples and sanctuaries (2Ch 36:23; lsa 44:26 —28). Haggai's central concern within this historical context was to encourage the full reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. His messages were directed at the principal leaders of the Jerusalem corn-munity —Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest. 

    Certain aspects of Haggai's imagery have led some to conclude that this prophet hoped not only for the rebuilding of the temple but also for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy. In his final oracle Haggai applied lofty titles to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel and grandson of the last Davidic king,Jehoiachin: 

  • Zerubbabel is called "my servant" (Hag 2:23), a title frequently applied to David (1 Ki 11:34; Ps 78:70; Eze 34:23) and to Isaiah's Messianic "servant" (Isa 42:1; 49:6; 52:13; 53:11). God declared that he would shake the heavens and the earth, overthrowing thrones of kingdoms and the power of the nations (Hag 2:21-22).The Messianic kingdom was about to begin, with Zerubbabel at the top. 
  • Zerubbabel is said to have been chosen and honored like a royal signet ring (v.23). 
    Two questions have been raised: Did Haggai believe Zerubbabel to be the Messiah? Did the prophet call for a rebellion against Persian rule? 

    In reality, Haggai neither exhorted Zerubbabel to claim a Messianic office nor urged the Jews to revolt against Persia.' Nothing in the book suggests an expectation on Haggai's part that the promises of Zion's final exaltation would be imminently fulfilled or that Zerubbabel would be the agent of their fulfillment. To the contrary, Zerubbabel was simply exhorted to perform his task in rebuilding the Jerusalem temple in anticipation of a greater future yet to come. Zerubbabel was called upon to live up to the heritage handed down from his ancestor David, but beyond the rebuilding of the temple no specific actions were called for. 

    It is true that the book of Haggai reflects the hope, common to all the prophets, for a glorious future for Zion: 
  • God will shake the universe (vv.6,21). 
  • He will remove the dominion of the nations (v. 22) and bring their tribute to Israel (vv. 7-8; cf. Ex 12:35-36). 
  • He will accomplish a second exodus (Hag 2:5,22) and install his chosen king (v.23). He will once again dwell in the midst of his people (1:13; 2:4,9).