Old Testament | Hebrew-Bible | Study Guide

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Old Testament | Hebrew-Bible | Haggai | Summary

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Summary

  • Haggai delivers a message from Yahweh to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua, the high priest, insisting the time has come to begin work on the temple.
  • Haggai's second message (2:1–9) comes a month after work on the temple has begun: soon "the treasure of all nations" will flow to Jerusalem, making the future splendor of the temple greater than its former glory.
  • A third message (2:10–19) insists that although in the absence of the temple Yahweh's people have been "unclean," now that restoration is underway Yahweh will bless them.
  • Haggai's final message claims Zerubbabel will reclaim the throne of David and restore the Judean monarchy.

Analysis

Haggai's prophetic messages call for the restoration of the two central institutions of Jerusalem, the temple of Yahweh and the Davidic dynasty. The two Judean leaders he addresses—Joshua and Zerubbabel—represent these institutions. According to 1 Chronicles 6:13, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, was the grandson of the last high priest to serve in the temple in Jerusalem before the destruction of the city and exile of its people. Upon returning from exile, Joshua reclaimed his hereditary office. Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel was the grandson of King Jehoiachin, the second-to-last King of Judah, and thus a potential heir to the Davidic throne.

According to Ezra 1:1–4, the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple was sanctioned by King Cyrus of Persia. In Haggai the rebuilding has been delayed nearly two decades. In Ezra, work on the temple is said to begin soon after the exiles returned, c. 536 BCE, but resistance from enemies of Judah brought work on the temple to a halt for many years, and Haggai prophesied that work must resume after this hiatus (Ezra 5:1). There is some discrepancy between these accounts, but Ezra nonetheless places Haggai's prophecy and the completion of the temple at the same time.

Haggai's final passage addresses the more provocative topic, Zerubbabel and the restoration of monarchic rule in Jerusalem. After Yahweh reorders the political status quo, overthrowing nations and kingdoms, Zerubbabel will be made like Yahweh's "signet ring." This language, referring to a sealing stone worn on a ring, alludes to royalty (compare Jeremiah 22:24–30). Although such expectations for Zerubbabel are found in both Haggai and Zechariah, after his early leadership in Jerusalem he disappears from the historical record entirely, and his ultimate fate is unknown.

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