Date: 520 B.C.
After the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., the survivors were carried off into captivity in Babylon. An international upheaval, resulting in a change of world leadership, then put Cyrus the Persian in charge of what was left of Babylon (539 B.C.). One of the first things Cyrus did was to allow former captives to return home if they wanted to go. A sizable number of Jews returned, although by no means all of them, and work was begun in the restored community. It was a difficult time. There were walls to be built, houses to construct, a temple to dedicate, farms and fields to plant, forests to clear, roads to build, and an army to raise for protection. What to do first? After a zealous start on the temple in Jerusalem, interest waned and work ceased in 536 B.C.
After sixteen years of inactivity and divided interests, the prophet Haggai preached his message, demanding that work be resumed on the temple so that God would have a fit dwelling place. His book consists of four messages, all preached in 520 B.C. The first was directed to Joshua, the religious leader, and Zerubbabel, the civil leader. It denounced the people for spending time on their own amusement while the temple lay in ruins. The second encouraged those who wanted to build, but were afraid the results would be insignificant. The third and fourth messages denounced the present state of corruption and promised God’s protection, if the people responded to God.
Theological Themes in the Book of Haggai
The basic message of the Book of Haggai is simple: our spiritual state is more important than our material state. We must make a home for God, whether on a hill (then) or in our hearts (now), if we expect God to bless us.
Outline for the Book of Haggai
- Message to Joshua and Zerubbabel Haggai 1:1-15
- Word of encouragement Haggai 2:1-9
- Things will change for the better Haggai 2:10-19
- God will preserve the leaders Haggai 2:20-23