Haggai was the first of the three post-exilic Minor Prophets. The name Haggai means “festal,” or “festive.” Some believe he was so advanced in years when he gave the prophecies of his book that he had seen the former Temple (Haggai 2:3).
When Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon (539 b.c.) he gave a decree permitting the return of the Jews and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1–4). So a small group of exiles, under the leadership of Zerubbabel (Ezra 1:8), returned to their homeland and shortly afterward laid the foundation of the Second Temple (Ezra 2:64; 3:1–10).
All during the reigns of Cyrus and his successor, Cambyses, the enemies of the Jews endeavored to get a royal edict to stop this work (Ezra 4:5). However, the Lord intervened (Dan. 10:12, 13), and prevented these enemies from succeeding. However, after a period the work gradually slowed down until it ceased due to hindrance of the Samaritans (Ezra 4:1–5).
The discouraged exiles turned to working on their lands and building their own homes. After Cambyses came False Smerdis (in 522 b.c.). And Samaritans succeeded in securing from this king, a permission to stop the work at Jerusalem. And the exiles declared that the proper time had not come for them to rebuild the Temple (Haggai 1:2). But when the people stopped the work on the house of God and turned to their own dwellings and lands, the Lord sent a drought and defeated their plans. Meanwhile, the Smerdis was killed by Darius, who took the throne and set aside the decrees of Smerdis.
In order to heal the spiritual lethargy, the Lord raised up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah with messages of warning and reproof, of exhortation and encouragement, to arouse the people to action, until finally the work on the Temple was resumed in the 2d year of Darius (Haggai 1:14, 15). It was only after the people had actually begun work again on the Temple, trusting in the protection of God, that Darius, a king who tried to emulate Cyrus in many ways, gave another official decree for the rebuilding of the Temple. This confirmed and strengthened the original decree of Cyrus (Ezra 5:3 to 6:13).
Under the inspiring leadership of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, of the governor of the returned exiles, Zerubbabel, and of the high priest, Joshua (Ezra 5:1, 2; 6:14), the people moved forward and completed the construction of the Temple in the 6th year of Darius (Ezra 6:15). The four messages constituting the book of Haggai aroused the weak spirit to do God’s will. The message of Haggai met with a more eager response on the part of both leaders and people than that of any other prophet.
In His service,
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