Historical Context of Haggai
It is important to understand the historical context of Haggai. Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC. Babylon conquered Assyria in 612 BC. With Assyria out of the way Babylon soon turn edits attention to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The deportation of Jews to Babylon began in 609 BC. Wave after way of attack, conquest, and the taking of refugees culminated in the destruction of Solomon’s temple in 586 BC. In the year 539 BC, exactly seventy years after the exile of Judah began, King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon. In his first year as king, in 538 BC, Cyrus issued the decree that allowed Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple. Temple construction began about two years later in 536 BC. By 530 BC there was sufficient opposition to the temple to halt construction for adecade. Meanwhile Cyrus’ son, Cabysus, ruled over Persia from 530 to 522 BC. In 522 Darius, a general of the Persian army, became king of Persia. In his second year, 520 BC, Haggai issues his prophecy. Temple construction begins again and the Temple is completed in 516 BC, exactly 70 years after Solomon’s temple was destroyed. The book of Ezra records the overall history of this period. Ezra’s account gives Haggai and Zechariah a great deal of credit for pressing the Jews to complete Temple construction (Ezra 5:1, 6:14).
About the Book of Haggai
The book of Haggai consists of a series ofprophecies issued by the prophet to the Jewish leaders and the people.Completion of the Temple was a major goal, but the ultimate goal was to restorethe hearts of the people to faithful worship of YHWH. The Temple was theoutward fruit intended to demonstrate the faithful hearts of the people. Haggaileaves no doubt that true service is possible only with a true heart.
The Time and Place
Hag 1:1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
The first of Haggai’s prophecies came in what was almost certainly August 29, 520 BC. By Jewish reckoning the sixth month is Elul, a month associated with repentance in preparation for the high holy days. This was the first of a series of prophecies issued by Haggai in this short volume. The date is firmly established by Haggai’s record. The year Darius took over as ruler of Persia is well established. The rest is a matter of simple mathematics. The target audience of Haggai’s prophecy consists of the Jewish political and religious leaders. The political leader was Zerubbabel, grandson of Jehoichin, and as such heir to the Davidic throne. His title, governor, indicates that his authority was that of a senior manager over a subject territory rather than a sovereign king over an independent nation. The high priest, Joshua, exercised religious authority apart from political authority. Joshua’s lineage can be traced to Aaron.
When the exiles first returned from Babylon they soon started on the temple construction project. Soon after construction began there was opposition. Eventually the project was shut down. Empowered by God, Haggai, along with Zechariah, motivated the leadership to restart the temple project and propel a powerful movement among the people to keep up the work through completion in 516 BC.