With the Babylonian exile behind them, a newly returned group of Jews back in the holy land began rebuilding the temple. Sixteen years after the project got started, however, God’s people had not finished it, for they had allowed their personal affairs to interfere with God’s business. Because of their lapse, God withheld His natural blessings.
In response, the prophet Haggai preached a fiery series of sermonettes designed to stir up the nation to finish the temple. He called the builders to renewed courage in the Lord, renewed holiness of life, and renewed faith in the God who controls the future.
The meaning of the prophet’s name, Haggay, is uncertain, but it may be derived from the Hebrew word hag (“festival”). It may also be an abbreviated form of haggiah, “festival of Yahweh.” Thus Haggai’s name probably means “festal” or “festive,” perhaps because he was born on the day of a major feast, such as Tabernacles. In fact, Haggai’s second message takes place during that feast (2:1).
Haggai has been called “the prophet of the temple” and possibly was born during the Babylonian captivity. He returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel, the governor of Jerusalem.
Haggai’s stern call to duty proved to be just what the people of Judah needed to motivate them to finish what they had started. In response to the prophet’s challenge, Joshua the high priest, Zerubbabel, and the rest of the people got busy and set about restoring the temple.
Theme: Haggai rebukes the people for failing to finish God’s work and promises His blessings for completing it.
Time: The events narrated in Haggai take place several years after the end of the Babylonian captivity (520–516 B.C.).
Structure: The book is built around four sermons. In the first message, Haggai called the people to rebuild the temple, and they responded (1:1–15). In the second, Haggai predicted that the rebuilt temple would be filled with God’s glory (2:1–9). In the third, the prophet decried the people’s sin and declared how God would bless obedience (2:10–19). In the fourth, Haggai encouraged Zerubbabel with prophesies of blessing for his obedience (2:20–23).
Charles F. Stanley, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005), Hag.