Haggai was the first of the three post-exilic Minor Prophets. Scholars do not know much about him other than what is recorded in his book and what is said about him in the book of Ezra (chapter 5:1; 6:14). Haggai and Zechariah gave messages to raise the failing spirit of the people and to inspire them with the will to do great things for God. Thus, the books of Haggai and Zechariah highlight the truthfulness of the statement of Ezra 5:2, that “the prophets of God” were “helping them” in rebuilding the Temple.
Instructions and assistance
The Bible tells us that Haggai and Zechariah “prophesied to the Jews” (Ezra 5:1). The word prophecy does not always mean making predictions—as the word is frequently but mistakenly understood. In contrast, most of these prophetic utterances were actually encouragements and instructions. Haggai and Zechariah were prophets because they instructed the people as they were guided by the Holy Spirit.
Calls to rebuild the temple
Haggai realized the importance of the Temple as the visible place of God’s presence. The temple was a tie to unite the nation in faithfulness to the covenant and obedience to the Law. For this reason, the prophet encouraged the returned exiles to put every effort toward the rebuilding of the Temple.
The information given by Haggai revealed the consecutive phases that marked the continuation of the building of the temple in Jerusalem. The first call for work was given in Aug. 29, 520 B.C. (Haggai 1:1). This call succeeded as the leaders immediately set their plans and acted on them about three weeks later, Sept. 21, 520 B.C. (Haggai 1:15). The political and spiritual directors of God’s children were still the same as in the time of Cyrus (Ezra 2:2).
Encouragement to carry on the work
In the meantime, two months after Haggai presented his first recorded message, Zechariah the prophet joined him (Zech. 1:1). Haggai and Zechariah presented other messages upon different occasions. They helped as well as encouraged God’s children in their work (Haggai 1:1; 2:21–23; Zech. 3:1–10; 4:6–10).
When the site was prepared and the ditches were dug for the new foundation, it became clear that the new Temple would not equate in size and beauty with that of Solomon’s. Some of the people were discouraged (Haggai 2:3, 9; cf. Ezra 3:12, 13). Therefore, Haggai gave another message of encouragement to lift the spirits of the people, on October 17 (Haggai 2:1).
Two months later, everything was ready for the laying of the foundation. The great event was celebrated according to the Oriental traditions on Dec. 18, 520 B.C. (Haggai 2:10, 18). On that day, Haggai gave two speeches. In all, Haggai gave four messages to the people.
Rejoicing in completing the temple work
With the spirit of collaboration, the people completed the work of the Lord’s house on March 12, 515 b.c., or Adar 3 in the 6th year of Darius I (Ezra 6: 16-18). Haggai experienced success because the leaders and the people responded positively to his messages.
In contrast, the Israelites openly and utterly rejected the messages of Jeremiah. In fact, most of the prophets faced rejection, indifference and persecution. Christians today should emulate the honorable example of leaders and people at Haggai’s time that they may finish building God’s spiritual house to usher His eternal kingdom (1 Peter 2:5; Matt. 24:14).
In His service,