This book was written after the Babylonian Exile or Captivity of the Hebrews, who were deported to Babylon in 586 BC by king Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was also captive. The Hebrews were under an United Kingdom until it was divided in 930 BC, when the ‘Southern Kingdom’ or Kingdom of Judah was formed. David became king over Judah in 1007 BC, and his line continued unbroken for the next 420 years, until the Kingdom fell in 586 BC to Nebuchadnezzar’s captain, Nebuzar-adan.
This was when the Davidic monarchy was ended, along with the first Temple. On the return of the Hebrews, many things changed, including the alphabet, rites and religion. We see the last of the great prophecies with Ezekiel, and from that time the Torah took a central part in Hebrew life. Instead of kings we then see the emergence of scribes and sages as leaders. The previous distinctive role of tribes was lost, and clans came into being, apart from the tribe of Levi, which remained intact.
With this new era, a large number of Jews began to live outside Israel. In a very real sense, then, this was a judgment by God upon His errant special people, who were now split up and discordant, never again to be triumphant as a military, religious, or political force. It is within this much-reduced era that Haggai wrote his book.
Today, we see similar dilutions of Christianity, at a time when Christians refuse to live up to their faith, and to honour God. For this reason we are all in spiritual exile.
The Book of Haggai was written in 520 BC, by the prophet of the same name, a descendant of Aaron, and a member of the tribe of Levi. The Book belongs to the group of writings known as the ‘Minor Prophets’. It was written 18 years after king Cyrus Hystaspis gave the Hebrews freedom to return to their own land from Babylon. The Book is a message from God to the returned people, to build another Temple. Haggai knew the drought that preceded his prophecy was caused by the Hebrews’ refusal to build another Temple, a refusal that showed a laxity towards God.
When reminded, the people began work almost immediately, on 7th September, 521 BC. It was completed on 25th February, 516 BC (this latter date is found in Ezra 6:15), taking only four and a half years. (Haggai is the most specifically-dated Book of scripture).
Haggai (‘my feast’ or ‘festive’) was a contemporary of Zecharia and it is believed he was so named because he was born on a Jewish festival. Malachi was born about 100 years later. The three prophets formed a small group who wrote after the return from Babylonian captivity. We know next to nothing about the man, except that he appears as a prophet about 520 BC. Hebrew scholars say he was well-known before this and his word carried great weight.
Haggai prophesied that the Messiah would appear in the Temple in the last days. According to the Septuagint, Haggai wrote or co-wrote Psalms 138,146-149. The Book of Haggai was written between August and December, 520 BC (the first of Elul to the 24th of Kislev).
Though work on the new Temple had begun years earlier, it was stopped by the machinations of the Samaritans. (In Ezra it seems these were the ‘people of the land’, whose help to build the new temple was refused by the Hebrews; they eventually built their own temple on Mount Gerizim). The new Temple remained unworked for 18 years, until Haggai and Zechariah urged them to start again. This came on the heels of a change of policy in the government of king Darius.
The Samaritans (known as the Kuthim in Hebrew) claimed to be descended from a group of Israelites connected to Samaria, from the time the Hebrews were held captive in Babylon – they lived in the Hebrews’ old land until their return, and resented their homecoming. But, their name is not taken from the geographical area; it derives from a word meaning ‘keeper (of the law)’. Their religion - Samaritanism - is parallel to, but not part of, the ‘sister’ religion of Judaism. Thus, it was separate, with a claim to be based on the true Judaism that existed before the first Temple was built.
Today, there are only just over 700 Samaritans; most live on Mount Gerizim (part of the West Bank), and others live in the city of Holon, Israel. However, derivative religionists who follow the Samaritan traditions live in other countries, mostly in the USA. They use what they call ‘ancient Hebrew’ or Samaritan Aramaic, in their meetings. Samaritans prefer to call themselves ‘Israelites’.
Darius, or Darius the Great, lived 549 BC to 486 BC. He arose as king of Babylon after killing the two sons of Cyrus the Great, and his reign was typified by civil unrest and Persian conquest of other lands – some of the soldiers were recruited from the Jews already under Babylonian rule. Darius worshipped Ahura Mazda, who was a Zoroastrian god, considered to be the highest of many. Darius was known as the ‘phantom king’. He was appointed by king Cyrus to govern the city of Babylon (See the Book of Daniel).
Cyrus was a good king who believed in returning exiles to their lands. It was his decree in 538 BC that allowed the Hebrews to return to their homeland. This decision by Cyrus was prophesied by Isaiah (44:24-45:7), 150 years beforehand. Many Hebrews had been born in Babylon, just as many were born in Egypt, and some did not wish to go back to their homeland; others had wealthy businesses. They were not keen to return to a land left poor by Samaritan indolence, and to a Jerusalem that was in ruins. For this reason, the return of the Hebrews took place in stages…. Beginning with those Jews who wished to honour God and again worship in freedom. It seems Haggai, still young, returned with the first group, numbering 50,000.
A second group of just 2058 returned in 457 BC, and, at this time, inter-marriage with foreigners was stopped. A third group was led by Nehemiah in 445 BC. He became governor of Jerusalem. Work on the new Temple began with the return of the first group. But, Jerusalem was in ruins, food was scarce, and the struggle for survival led to bitter confrontations when the returned Hebrews did not allow the Samaritans to help, because they had intermarried with unbelievers. Because of this rivalry, and need to find food, the Hebrew desire to build the Temple waned and then stopped. They forgot about the Temple altogether… not much different from the way people today forget God.
Haggai’s words were evidently from God, and caused an explosion of activity amongst the spiritually-lax Jews. Today, we need a similar explosion of Christian faith and activity, as Christians lay back in spiritual laziness, but do much physical work and ‘religious’ activity. Such a mass return to Christ would literally work wonders, for God will not bless us when we refuse to repent and give everything to Him. A sudden explosion would rock the world… but will it happen? Likely not, as a New World Order is presently being installed. Yet, we must urge such movement of God’s people, who must fight on, if only to regain spiritual integrity.
Verses 1 & 2
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built.
The dating of this book is very specific, as I have already noted. The prophecy was from God (Jehovah in this text), and was delivered to the governor of Judah, and to the high priest. Darius, or Dar’ yavesh (‘lord’), was king of the Perso-Arian dynasty, a sub-king under Cyrus, and he controlled other lesser rulers of regions, such as Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel (‘sown in Babylon’) was a descendant of David, and grandson to king Jehoiachin; he led the first group of Hebrews out of exile. Shealtiel (‘I have asked of God’) was, of course, his father.
Though just returned from captivity, because of his lineage, he was appointed governor of Judah on behalf of Darius, meaning that the Jews still did not live in their own sovereign state. The high priest, Joshua (‘Jehovah is salvation’), was son of Josedech (‘Jehovah is righteous’), and grandson of the high priest, Hilkiah, and, though Josadech was in line for the high priesthood, he never attained to it, because he was in exile. Thus, his son, Joshua, became the first high priest after the Hebrews returned home, which suggests that, by this time, Josedech had died in Babylon.
So, God spoke to Haggai, by audible words, as dabar indicates. No doubt, Haggai then wrote the words down before giving them to the two leaders of his people. Typically of all true prophets, Haggai prefaced his prophecy with a confirmation that the words belonged to God, the “Lord of hosts”. God started with a complaint, that the people were saying the Temple should not be built. It is often thought that if the majority of Christians believe a certain thing, then it must be true. This is patently not the case, as history proves. What is true, in every detail, is what God says, not what men say.
At this time I have two main communication ‘threads’ sent to me by various people. One says hell as a place of judgment does not exist. The other says that God saves everybody. Both are very wrong, but they are indicative of the sorry state of men’s minds in modern days, when the stark reality of God and His word is diluted to fit human reasoning and unfortunate beliefs. I do not care what individuals think. I do not care what I think. I care about what God says, because only He speaks truth and only He is our touch-stone. The Hebrews, too, forgot this principle.
Verses 3 - 6
Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?
Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
Haggai continued the prophecy. God tells of His anger, that the returned Hebrews lived in “cieled houses” but His own house, the (first) Temple, remained a ruin. A ‘cieled’ house, caphan, is one that is covered with a roof of boards or panels and has a wooden floor. That is, a fully-constructed home. The point God is making is that whilst He, the Lord of all, had just a ruin for His house, the people made sure they had comfortable, fully-constructed homes. This was the wrong way around! The order in every instance is – God first, everything else second.
This is how modern Christians live. They make sure they have their homes, cars, jobs, money, etc., before they even start to think about God. God gets whatever is left, whatever is ‘extra’, and His spokesmen are ignored. No wonder we are bereft of blessings in our day! The things of God remain in ruins, whilst we live well and place Him second.
God therefore called upon the Hebrews to think again (verse 5). Mercifully, He did not visit them with anger, but gave them an opportunity to repent and start afresh. He reminds them that though they had their homes, everything else was still precarious… not enough to eat or drink, despite their hard work; not enough clothing; and whatever money they earned seemed to vanish quickly. This is almost similar to the way western civilization is now going, as evil men begin to produce the One World Order prophesied by God. How many of us work hard but get nowhere? When God made His comments on the Hebrews’ living conditions, He was really saying, ‘Look at what you have done! By neglecting the things that belong to Me, you have run into despair! Repent and return to My ways, and I will bless you.’ This is true in every age.
Verses 7 - 11
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.
Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.
And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.
God again repeats His command to think again. He gives the people no option: they were to start rebuilding the Temple immediately. “Go up to the mountain, and bring wood”! Very often I receive communications from people who want God’s blessings but refuse to knuckle-down to repentance and a change of ways. I tell them that they must repent immediately, not some time when they feel like it. And, if they do things wrong, they must stop – immediately, not in the future. This is God’s way, not ours.
Once a man knows the truth, He is bound to obey it. God does not give time as an excuse. In particular, I get many emails about supposed ‘mental’ conditions. I tell the senders that they must immediately stop indulging in their mental afflictions, because they offend God. Invariably, they shuffle their feet, and claim it is ‘hard’. I tell them it is only ‘hard’ if they retain the fondness they have for the malady… if they truly repented, they would be instantly relieved. The answer is to go up the mountain to get the wood! Instead of making excuses as to why they must remain in a sinful condition, they should just shut up and get on with it! That is what God is saying to the Hebrews.
God tells the people He will be pleased when they do as He says. This automatically means that God would bless and reward them for their obedience. Sometimes, Christians say they cannot see why they should carry on doing this or that for the Lord, because they cannot discern blessings. This is not how we should live! We must obey God and do His bidding even if we cannot see any blessings. It should be sufficient that God says He is pleased by what we say and do. Indeed, it is when we do not selfishly look for blessings that God will pour such blessings over us in abundance!
The main point is that God is glorified by our obedience. The point is NOT that we get blessings, but that God is firstly glorified. Our blessings are not the issue. Yet, when we glorify God by our obedience, He graciously blesses us anyway. He does not have to, but He does.
God reminds the Hebrews of what happened: that their exile was a punishment from Himself. As a people they lived irreligiously, so God caused the enemy to tear-down the Temple: “I did blow upon it”. He did it because every man was more concerned with himself than with God. This is why we see homosexuals, terrorists and environmentalists (Marxists) tearing apart civilization, replacing godly ways with their own wickedness. What we see today is a punishment, our version of exile.
In the past, when I have said I warned people of these coming dangers for twenty years, I was not simply saying “I told you so”; I was saying that though God spoke through watchmen, including myself, Christians refused to listen or to act. Then, God allowed the very things being warned about, to start to rule the world. God had ‘blown upon it’, so we can now expect a time of crushing exile. The frantic efforts of Christians to reverse these sins is in vain, for their previous neglect caused God to judge us all. The answer is for very one of us to repent and return to the things of God. Only then will we see a difference.
You may think I am being arrogant, but I am only repeating what I see in scripture and what God has shown me. Haggai did not pretend the prophecy was only his own word. He told the leaders that it came direct from God. And that is what I am now saying: the warnings from myself and others were from God, but no-one listened. Judgment fell upon all Christians as a result. Now we must repent and obey. It is no different from Haggai’s day.
Because the people were lax, there was drought and famine. This was a result of their spiritual drought and famine, which caused them to think only of their own comforts and ways. They forgot God, so God ‘forgot’ them for a season! This is a very direct way of showing us that when we neglect the things of God, we enter into a time of personal and national spiritual loss. Once God pulls away from us because of our laxity, He can remain aloof for quite some time, Witness the hundreds of years of exile in Egypt, or the forty years in the desert, or the exile in Babylon. It is what we are witnessing today, as what was once a Christian land is overrun by evil men and leaders.
God specifically underlines this in verse 11: it was He Who brought drought and famine upon the land and brought hard labour with no rewards. He did it because the people were released from exile and yet did not praise God and glorify Him by remaking the Temple. We can moan about our circumstances all we wish, but if we neglect God He will bring us to nought… as He is doing to us in the West today
Verses 12 & 13
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.
Then spake Haggai the LORD's messenger in the LORD's message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.
Note what happened next. How many modern Christians would submit to the word of the Lord like this? Haggai’s listeners obeyed immediately, because “the Lord their God had sent him”. It is not arrogant for a man sent by God to expect people to obey God. But, how many genuine preachers, teachers and pastors are ignored when they speak from the Lord? How many Christians believe they have the option to just ignore what is said? No wonder we are in dire straits as Christians and as nations!
When the people heard Haggai, their response was true – they feared the Lord. They had not done what they should have done, and their fear was proper and needed. It caused them to obey immediately. Their obedience brought an additional “message unto the people”. God said “I am with you”. This is the same promise given to all Believers: if we obey, God is with us! He will bless us. How many want to obey? How many even think of obedience? How many listen without ears to hear?
Verses 14 & 15
And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,
In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
See how the work of the Lord was effected? The spirits of the people, every one of them, were “stirred up”. This means their spirits were aroused from their slumber. They were incited to obey. In any Christian the proof of obedience is in an ongoing work for the Lord, as he allows his spirit to commune with God. In Judah, this arousal of the spirit went from the governor and the high priest right down to the lowest worker. In the West, we are fortunate if we find an archbishop who believes, let alone one who obeys! And if we find a local church were spirits are stirred, then we have found a rarity.
Once they were stirred to action, everyone put their heart and soul into building the Temple. We even know the exact date they began the work!
What this shows us is that lax Christians who do plenty of ‘Christian’ works are on a fool’s errand. Their works are as nothing to God, because they are not called for by Himself. They are done out of a sense of human duty. If God has not directly called them to the work on an individual level, then all their works are in vain, no matter how ‘good’ they are thought to be.
I am often asked how we know we are called. At the risk of repeating myself again: we will know, because our hearts and minds will be burdened to the core of our being! It will be obvious. As I have said before, if a man has to ask how he knows, then he has never known such a call before… or he has ignored it.
Let us all repent and jump headlong out of our laxity! Let us obey God so that we glorify Him. Do not think first of what reward you will get, or what blessings. Thinking like that will only bring confusion and loss. It is when we act because God says so, and not for reward, that God begins to shower us with blessings and rewards. In the dark days of these end times, this is a powerful and vital message to hear.
© April 2009
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
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