Bible Query from
Q: In Hag, what do we know about this prophet and his book?
A: Nothing is known of Haggai except what is mentioned in the book. His name means "festive" or "festival" and that he and Zechariah are mentioned in Ezra 5:1; 6:14. The Believer's Bible Commentary p.1153 speculates that since Haggai's name means "festal", perhaps Haggai was born on a Jewish holiday. Allusions to Haggai are in Zechariah 8:9 and Hebrews 12:26.
Only about 50,000 Jews returned in 538 B.C. They started building the temple for a couple of years and then stopped. And now, 18 years later, the temple still had not yet been built. The first message, on the new moon festival (Numbers 10:10), exhorted God's people, who had lost their vision. In Haggai we will learn some things about God and people, but teaching truth is not the main point of the book. The main point is that the people, and us, are supposed to change.
Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaries and it is interesting to contrast the styles of these two prophets. Haggai's style is in general plain, organized, and direct compared to the symbolic and inspiring Zechariah. But God uses various kinds of styles. H.A. Ironside in The Minor Prophets p.221 calls Haggai and Zechariah "as polished shafts from the quiver of the Lord, whose mission it was to recall to Himself the hearts of those so privileged."
Q: In Hag, what is the main point?
A: Haggai is a book about "when it's not the best". There are two main sub-points. First, the people were diligent about building their houses, but they had neglected to build God's Temple. Unlike the pre-Exilic prophets, Haggai in his message is not rebuking them for terrible things they are doing wrong. He is rebuking them for not doing right. They were caught up in the cares of this world while neglecting good.
Second, they should not be disappointed in that 50,000 poor Jews could not make as nice a looking temple as Solomon built with his gold and 2 and a half million or so subjects. We should be pleased if we are obeying God in the center of His will, and not look at mere outward adornments.
Q: In Hag, what is an outline of the book?
A: Haggai can be studied on three levels: a) building God's house, b) turning back to God, or c) when things are not the best. Chapter 1 focuses on when God's people are not giving their best, and the second chapter shows we are to remain encouraged when the results do not appear to be the best.
Haggai the second shortest book in the Old Testament (after Obadiah), and the outline is very straightforward. Haggai had four visions.
Hag 1:1-15 First Message - Stop delaying and build God's house now (Aug 29, 520 B.C.)
Hag 1:1-11 Consider God's discipline of His procrastinating people
Hag 1:12-15 God's remnant responded in obedience
Hag 2:1-9 The glory of God's house (Sept 21, 520 B.C.)
Hag 2:1-4 Yes, the temple does not look so good like it used to
Hag 2:5-9 God's Spirit remains, but once more God will shake the heavens and earth
Hag 2:10-19 God can even bless what is defiled (Oct 17, 520 B.C.)
Hag 2:10-15 Holiness is not contagious; uncleanness is; no natural hope for this people
Hag 2:16-19 God solemn promise to overturn this with His people
Hag 2:20-23 Reversing Curses (Dec 18, 520 B.C.)
Hag 2:20-22 Overturning foreign nations
Hag 2:23 Zerubbabel, descendant of Jehoiachin and the signet ring
Q: In Hag 1:1, how do you pronounce Haggai?
A: It has three syllables (HAG-a-i) with the first "a" short, and the second "a" and "I" long. The accent is on the first syllable. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, the New International Bible Dictionary, Cruden's Concordance, and Harper's Bible Dictionary pronounce it identically.
Q: In Hag 1:1, when was Haggai written?
A: According to what was written in Haggai 1, this would be 520 B.C. The skeptical work Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.661 says the same. Precise dating is a feature of Babylonian and Persian writings, such as the Babylonian Chronicle, which precisely dates every event. Haggai lived under Babylonian and Persian rule, and thus dates things by the Babylonian calendar, not the Old Testament calendar, as one who had lived his life under their rule. Haggai is also unusual in mentioning minted coins, which Darius learned about from the kingdom of Lydia. (New International Bible Commentary p.960)
Q: In Hag 1:1, what were the world events during this time?
538 B.C. About 50,000 Jews were allowed to return home when Cyrus conquered Babylonia.
538 B.C. The Jews worked on the temple for two years and then stopped.
-530 B.C. Cyrus died in battle.
530-522 B.C. Cambyses II ruled Persia. He was a tyrant who mismanaged the empire. All was at peace in the Persian Empire (pax Persiaca) except for rebellious Egypt, which Cambyses marched to Palestine at the head of his army to subdue.
522-521 B.C. Cambyses died mysteriously and there was a revolt in Persia. Artaxerxes was an imposter who reigned 7 months. He is called Pseudo-Smerdis by the Greeks and historians today. He wrote the letter in Ezra 4:7-23 stopping the building.
522/521-486 B.C. Darius I Hystaspis became king after killing the imposter. He fought the Scythians and Greeks, defeated at Marathon in 490 B.C. Esther was his queen)
520 B.C. Haggai and Zechariah gave their first prophecies
519-518 B.C. Persian army marches through Palestine and conquers Egypt
486-465/464 B.C. Xerxes I (murdered) (same as Ahasuerus in Ezra 4:6 and Esther)
464-336 B.C. Artaxerxes I. He was called by the Persians Artaxerxes I to erase the memory of the imposter Artaxerxes. Nehemiah was his cupbearer.
445 B.C. Nehemiah came to Jerusalem to build the city wall
Q: In Hag 1:2, did the people's apathy prevent building of the Temple, or did foreign opposition prevent it as Ezra 4:7-23 says?
A: Both had a role. Here is the sequence of events.
1. In 538 B.C., Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to go home and build their Temple.
2. In 536 B.C., the Jews started laying the foundation for the Temple.
3. Judah's enemies (Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and others) wrote a letter to the king (titled Artaxerxes, but whom modern historians call Pseudo-Smerdis 522-521 B.C.). He issued a decree stopping the building.
4. In 520 B.C., (Ezra 5:1) God used Haggai to rebuke the people for not rebuilding. The Jews then started rebuilding.
5. The enemies questioned their authorization for rebuilding.
6. The Jews pointed out in a letter to King Darius the previous decree from King Cyrus, and after a search, that decree was found. Esther 1:19 and Daniel 6:8 say that the laws of the Persian kings could not be repealed.
7. The temple was finally completed around 516 B.C.
See When Critics Ask p.319 for more info.
Q: In Hag 1:2 they were neglecting to build God's house, and we can be neglecting God's house today. 1 Peter 2:5 says that God's house is not a building, but us, His church. How might we be neglecting God's house?
A: While I think not many Christians would every do this deliberately, we can unintentionally do this. One way is to lose their zeal to be building anything. But a second, perhaps more common way, is to get so focused on something else, whether it be music, building buildings, or even knowledge, that obeying God is no longer their highest priority.
Q: In Hag 1:1-3, what were the people doing wrong?
A: It was not that they were doing evil things, but they let their own concerns and ambitions take first place instead of serving God, as Haggai 1:3 shows.
Q: In Hag 1:2-4, why do you think the enthusiasm of God's people sometimes wanes?
A: There can be at least four reasons.
Lost faith in God working in them to succeed in achieving that goal:
Dampened their love of God and others that motivates them to press onward. They do not feel it is worth the effort, hard work, or sacrifice to work toward that goal.
Given up hope, and are discouraged on their progress. They do not see that they will ever make the goal they think they are supposed to arrive at.
Lost their vision: They have changed and now want to work on another goal, perhaps to satisfy their own ambition.
Q: In Hag 1:2-4, why do people procrastinate in general? Why do people procrastinate in doing God's will?
A: Procrastination of action is not refusing to do something; rather it is justified as putting off until a better time. Many times there is something that appears more fine, or less laborious to do now; and that gets in the way of doing important things. Many things today are "urgent" in that they have deadlines. But some things are very important but not urgent because they do not have a deadline. InterVarsity Press published a very good booklet on this, called The Tyranny of the Urgent. It shows how the tyranny of the urgent is the enemy of the important.
A second kind of procrastination is "analysis paralysis" or delaying making a decision, especially a decision that is uncomfortable to make. On one extreme, it is not good to make snap decisions with insufficient or no data to base the decision on. On the other extreme, procrastination is often rationalized by saying, "I don't have all the data". Typically you never will have all the data! But if you have enough data, such that additional data probably will not change the decision, then you should decide now.
Matthew 6:33 says to seek first the kingdom of God. Sometimes people do not do what God wants them to do because they feel they have something more important. But nothing is really more important than serving God.
Q: In Hag 1:2-4, what are some excuses Christians might give for procrastinating in being fully devoted to God?
A: Here are ten rationalizations.
I already tithe. (but see Luke 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:2-3)
It might not always be so fun. (but see 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; Philippians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; and 1 Corinthians 9:23-25)
If I gave everything over to God, my family would starve. (but see 1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 31:21-25)
I might not advance so far in my career. (see Hebrews 11:24-26; 11:37; 1 Timothy 6:9-10)
It might not be safe for me. (see 1 Kings 19:10; Abram and the Elamite invasion)
I want some assurance that my family will be safe. (see Ezekiel 24:18; Job 1:2-3 vs. 42:12-13)
Prior to knowing God, I had gone too far away from righteousness for God to use me. (Paul)
After knowing God, I have gone too far away from God's will. (see Jonah, Peter; 2 Corinthians 2:5-10)
Currently, I'm not so perfect myself. (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
If only gives me what we need, and I have squandered part of what He gave. (see Exodus 34:1)
This week honor God in a special way. Find something that you know God wants you to do, but you are procrastinating about, and start doing it now. Or instead, find a habit God wants you to stop doing, but you are procrastinating on, and stop doing it now.
Q: How do Hag 1:2-4 and Jms 1:6-7 relate to each other?
A: James 1:6-7 says that if a person knows what God wants them to do and does not do it, then it is sin. Here are some reasons why people procrastinate in general.
Say they are too tired
Too many other things
If cannot do it properly, then do not do it at all
Work better under pressure
Lack of familiarity, out of our comfort zone
Do not see the deadline
Give permission to yourself, take the initiative (Nobody on earth gave Haggai permission to speak - except Haggai)
Do not see the immediate consequences
We just don't want to. We do not see sufficient pleasure or benefit
Lack of self-discipline, which is doing what you know is best, whether you feel like it or not.
Fear of lack of success
Q: In Hag 1:3-4, why do you think God punished first, and explained later, when he often does the opposite?
A: Typically God warns a defiant or ignorant people and then punishes if they do not turn around. But there are two kinds of disobedience: defiance and procrastination. They people already knew what to do, they were not defiant or outright unwilling to do it, but they just kept on delaying while they were doing their own projects. God gave them bad consequences because they already knew what they should be doing. God made the punishment fit the disobedience. They were too busy working on their own things to have time for God, so God made sure their own things would not be very successful.
Q: In Hag 1:4 (KJV), what is a "cieled house"?
A: The NIV and NKJV translate this as a "paneled house". Jay P. Green's Literal Translation says "roofed house". Some scholars think this means a luxurious house with wood paneling. Others say it merely means a house with a roof. But if it meant the latter, then why is this the only place in the Bible where the writer felt a need to say a house with a roof? The NET translation says "richly paneled houses".
Q: In Haggai 1:5,7; 2:15,18 (2 times), how can we give thought to our ways?
A: We can start with prayer to ask God to show us our hidden faults, as well as remind us of our not-so-hidden ones. We can take stock if our desires, thoughts, and plans are leading us and our family towards God and being more Christlike, or away. We can question if there are important things we are leaving undone, for the sake of trivial things. In general, we can give though to: our time, where we are headed, priorities, money, and pleasure - or where is our heart.
Q: In Hag 1:5-7,11,16-17, why does God sometimes choose not to bless His own people?
A: The answer to this question is the main lesson of the book of Haggai. When God's people are not honoring Him like they should, and they are not fully obedient, God will arrange circumstances to encourage their obedience. We often do the same to our children as discipline. Discipline is not always physical punishment. The type of punishment God is using here people sometimes call "logical consequences discipline."
Q: In Hag 1:9-11, what is unusual about the structure of this passage?
A: This is a literary device called a chiasm.
Hag 1:9a-b God disciplined them
-- Hag 1:9c-e Because God's house is in ruin
-- Hag 1:10a Because of you
Hag 1:10b-11 God disciplined them
Q: Why does Hag 1:10,11 mention dew instead of rain?
A" During the summer growing season, from April to October, there was no rain in Israel. But there was usually a lot of dew from the winds coming off of the Mediterranean Sea. So the dew was essential to the summer crops. God sent a drought (horeb) of no dew, because His temple remained a ruin (hareb). He used a pun to reinforce in people's memory the reason for the punishment. James 4:17 says that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful in its effect, and it gives the example first of Elijah praying for no rain, and then later praying for rain. These people's prayer for rain did nothing, because they were not fully committed to God. James 1:7-8 says that a double-minded man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.
Q: Hag 1:13; 2:4 say, "I am with you, says the Lord". Haggai 2:5 and 2:19 also give the same promise of blessing. How is this the best blessing of all?
A: Elijah knew the answer in 1 Kings 19:11-13. God showed him various powers in nature, but Elijah knew that God's presence was not in those; and Elijah held out for God's presence. When we are not satisfied with showy outward things, but hold out for God's presence, God will be there for us. The promise that God will be with us, in a very near and personal way, is the best promise of all.
Q: In Hag 1:14, how does God stir up the spirit of someone?
A: God demolishes the bonds that kept their spirit down. He restores their faith, gives them a new heart of love, lifts their hope and gives them vision. God uses both positive and negative reinforcement, as necessary.
In Haggai's time they started building in 23 days. This gave them time to organize and finish harvesting of figs, grapes, and pomegranates. They might not have felt they had enough resources, but Ezra 6:8,9 says that king Darius even gave them money! Ezra 6:15 says it was finished about 4 years later.
Q: In Hag 1:14, when is it OK to accept money from non-believers for God's work, verses accepting no money from non-believers in 3 Jn 7?
A: First what is not the answer, and then the answer.
Not the answer: Haggai prophesied during Old Testament times, and 3 John was written under the New Covenant. However, there is no explicit indication that these precepts were a change.
The answer: The government under the Babylonians destroyed the temple and took away the gold and riches from the temple. The government under the Persians was giving back what was originally the Jews to begin with.
Q: In Hag 2:1, what is significant about speaking to the "remnant of the people" vs. just the people?
A: There were over 1 1/2 million Israelites in Solomon's time, but at this time only 50,000 Jews returned home. They had noticeably fewer people and far fewer resources to build a temple. A key point is their attitudes would be when the temple reflected that.
An Exegetical Commentary : Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi p.37 says that "remnant" does not refer to an elect community, but rather the insignificant fraction of the population that returned from Babylon.
Q: In Hag 2:1-4, how can paradoxically a desire for success sometimes lead to failure by procrastination?
A: Sometimes people procrastinate because they would rather not ever try at all than risk failure. Quite frankly, some things that God wants us to do, if we do them right, humbly and obediently, and rely on God, will still be a failure, - at least in the eyes of the world.
The people in Haggai's time gave up their own judging of auspicious times for success, and at Haggai's urging, they started to build anyway. The timing of the second message, on October 17, 520 B.C., on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, is significant in two ways. First, it was exactly 440 years before, in 960 B.C. that Solomon dedicated the temple he built in 1 Kings 6:38; 8:2. Second, it was a month later, so they could already see some results. Ezra 3:10-13 said that while some shouted for joy, others wept. Some of the older returnees probably remembered the former temple.
Whether or not the new temple would be a "success" depended on whether you were judging by worldly standards or God's.
Q: In Hag 2:1-4, how do people respond when things are not going to be as good as they once were?
A: Ezra 3:10-13 says that some of the people rejoiced, but others cried. If you come to a church just for the "show" sooner or later you will either be disappointed, or you might end up in a place where everything is only for show. It is better to be genuine than spectacular.
Q: Does Hag 2:1-4 show any disappointment on God's part that this temple was not a beautiful as the Solomon's?
A: None whatsoever. Remember, that Solomon also built idol temples too, and these people would not be building an idol temples. Building a plain and pure temple to God is better than building a truly spectacular temple to God but building an idol temple too.
Q: In Hag 2:1-4, sometimes it is natural to compare various ministries, but when should we not, and how should we?
A: In Jeremiah 45, Baruch the scribe was faithful in Jeremiah's ministry. Jeremiah was in influential prophet in the centuries to come, but in his time we do not have record of a single person repenting. We do not judge by results, amount of money taken in, or flashiness.
But we can and should look at if they are sound in doctrine and practice, and whether or not they are doing what God has called Christians to do.
Q: In Hag 2:1-4, this temple did not lack anything, but it did not have the beautiful adornments of Solomon's Temple. How are can some Christians, relying on "adornments" to bring attention to the gospel, losing their focus on the gospel itself?
A: Denominations and Christian organizations can have two kinds of purposes. The first kind is the purposes that God intended for the group. The second kind are additional purposes that people have added. People in Solomon's time could be confident that the LORD was the true God because Jerusalem had the largest temple, the best furnishings and the most gold of any temple around. All of those are false reasons to be confident. It was a noble goal to "adorn" the temple, but this new temple was going to be "unadorned" with the gold, magnificent height, and other trappings. As we look the mammoth, beautifully architected cathedrals of Europe, prior to the missionary age of the 18th century, one wonders what more could have been done if the money and effort had instead gone to build the real church of God, i.e. more people through evangelism and discipleship.
We might think we need adornments to serve God better, and we would, if we were to serve in our own power. But we can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:15). As Paul learned in 2 Corinthians 12:10b "When I am weak, then I am strong." (NIV)
Q: In Hag 2:4, why is it significant to tell a priest name Joshua to be strong, and what does this have to do with coming out of Egypt in Hag 2:5? How is this "command" really a precious promise?
A: God is using the same phrasing he told Joshua in the book of Joshua. We can be encouraged by remembering what God has done for us and His people in the past. On the surface God was merely commanding Him to be strong, but indirectly God was saying God could make him courageous like the Joshua of old, and Moses and Aaron, who feed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and defeated Pharaoh's army singlehandedly without any help from anyone else - that is, except for God.
As a side note on Joshua the high priest, his father Jehozadak was deported to Babylon (1 Chronicles 6:15).
Q: In Hag 2:5 and Isa 41:10, God told the people not to fear. What are things they might be fearful about?
A: While there are many specific things they could have feared, there are at least three categories.
Fear of the surrounding people: The Samaritans, Ammonites, and Arabs were not pleased that they were rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah's time, and they would not have wanted the temple in Haggai's time either.
Fear that God would not take them back: The people had been so disobedient over 70 years ago that God exiled them the Babylon. Only a very small percentage returned. They might have some questions about if God still wanted them. God's promise to be with them in Haggai 1:13; 2:4 and Isaiah 41:10 would be precious to them. If a Christian falls today, he or she might wonder if God would ever take them back. The promise made back then is still valid today. In fact, if someone repents it is because of the Holy Spirit convicting them to repentance, in order to take them back.
Fear of little strength in tumultuous times: God told the Jews that once more he would shake the heavens and earth, the sea and dry land, in Haggai 2:6. "Once more" is reminiscent of Exodus 19:16 where God shook things in Moses' time. Isaiah 41:10 says, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (NIV)
Q: In Hag 2:6-7, when were the earth and heaven shaken?
A: When Christ died on the cross, the sun was darkened (Matthew 27:45-46; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:45), and there was an earthquake (Matthew 27:51-52). The non-Christian Palestinian historian Thales (52 A.D.), also recorded that darkness accompanied Jesus' crucifixion.
In addition to a physical earthquake, Jesus' death, visit to those dead, and resurrection certainly shook everything up in spiritual realms.
Q: In Hag 2:7, who is the desired of all the nations?
A: First some Hebrew grammar, and then two views.
The Hebrew word for "desired" (hemdat) is singular feminine, and "will come" (ba'u) is plural. However, "desired" plural is (hamudat) which has the same vowels. The Hebrew was originally written without vowels.
Walter Kaiser in Hard Sayings of the Bible p.341-342 points out that while desire is singular feminine, a similar construction refers to Saul as the desire of Israel in 1 Samuel 9:20, the male idol Tammuz as "one desired by women" in Daniel 11:37. In plural form, Daniel is the highly esteemed one in Daniel 9:23 and 10:11,19.
Now, here are the three views.
1. The Desired One is the Messiah: Early Christians interpreted it this way. Since the feminine form can refer to Saul, Tammuz, and Daniel as mentioned previously, nothing keeps this from referring to Christ. This fits the context of Haggai perfectly. It is saying that while this temple does not look as nice as the previous one, it will be better because Jesus will enter this new temple. As a side note, in Jesus' time the temple was called "Herod's Temple", not because Herod built a new temple, but because he paid to fix up this temple. The KJV and NIV translate this as the "desired one".
2. The desired one is the wealth/treasure of nations: This is the interpretation given in the NRSV and NASB. Kaiser says this interpretation is followed because of the singular feminine noun.
3. The People shall come to the desired one of all nations: Kaiser mentions this as a valid possibility, and the NKJV adopts this view.
See the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1155, 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.216, An Exegetical Commentary p.42 and The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.586 for more info.
Q: In Hag 2:7, do you think "the desired of nations" is messianic or not?
A: Scholars have different views.
Yes: Some Jewish rabbis and Jerome (Letter 53 ch.8 p.101 394 A.D.) interpreted this as Messianic. 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.300 says this is messianic.
No: "Desired of all nations" is probably not messianic according to the New International Bible Commentary p.961, Believer's Bible Commentary p.1155, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.685.
Both: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1542 likewise points out that "will come" is a plural word, so this is a plural desires/treasures, but says this could be deliberately ambiguous and refer to both treasures and the Messiah.
The question is left open by the NIV and apparently The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.586
Q: In Hag 2:7, when will this house be filled with glory?
A: This refers to God the Son, Jesus entering the Temple when he walked on this earth. However, 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.300 says it refers to Jesus coming into the Temple during the Millennium.
Q: In Hag 2:9 why do you think God said that in Jerusalem he would grant peace (shalom)? Jerusalem has continuously been the center of conflict. But the Messiah, the Prince of peace, would bring out peace between God and man in Jerusalem, at the cross.
Q: In Hag 2:3,7,9 how was the glory of the Temple greater than the glory of Solomon's Temple?
A: Jesus came to this temple. Some are more concerned with "glorious" material things such as gold, while God seems more concerned with people than material things.
Q: In Hag 2:9, how did Herod the Great use this?
A: Herod the Great mentioned that the temple was currently 60 feet shorter than Solomon's and thus not as good. He said this in his speech to persuade the Jews to let him restore the temple to its former state so that the temple (and he) would have more glory. (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews book 15 ch.11.1 p.334.)
But that is not what God meant when he said this temple would have greater glory than Solomon's. Today, unspiritual attempts to make a ministry successful can actually be a counterfeit for the true purpose of a ministry
Q: In Hag 2:11-14, what is the point here about clean and unclean?
A: One could think of cleanness as purity, and uncleanness as contamination. A consecrated thing touching against an ordinary thing does not make both consecrated. However, a contaminated thing touching an ordinary thing makes both contaminated. Then God told Haggai that to him the whole nation was contaminated. There are at least three applications we can learn from this passage.
1. You cannot do an equal amount of good and bad things and expect things to balance out in God's' eyes. Some call this erroneous view the "Robinhood Syndrome", since according to legend, Robinhood thought that one bad deed (such as robbing some one), would be balanced by one good deed (such as giving a portion of the loot to the poor.)
2. We can defile, but only God can purify. Defilement spreads. Ecclesiastes 10:1 compares this to a dead fly in perfume. Holy things, or people, do not make more consecrated things or people. It is God who makes things and people Holy.
3. God often takes collective action against a nation or people. Even though there might be a few righteous people in a nation, God sometimes punishes the entire nation because of the sins of the majority. This does not mean the righteous people are guilty, but in this life, they still are caught up in the consequences of others sins.
Q: In Hag 2:15, was this temple built around 520 B.C., or was it built around 536 B.C. as mentioned in Ezra 3:8-13, or was it built during the time of Darius (521-486 B.C.) as mentioned in Ezra 4:24?
A: All of the above are true. The work was started when the Jews first came back in 538 B.C.. However, a decree was issued stopping the work. The work was restarted around 18 years later in 520 B.C.
See the discussion on Haggai 1:1 for the chronology of the kings, and the discussion on Haggai 1:2 for the sequence of events of the temple. See When Critics Ask p.214-215,319 for more info.
Q: In Hag 2:15 the Hebrew is unusual, literally saying, "from this day and upward". How is our life to be "from this day and upward"?
A: The people probably felt in a low spot spiritually, for only a remnant returned, and the temple was clearly not going to be as good as it was before. They were in a low spot financially. But God promised them that He would be with them, and He would bless them from this day "upward."
As one pastor would say, when somebody asks how you are doing, you can tell them, "better than yesterday, less than tomorrow." We should live with the expectation that we will be growing more Christlike, filled with God's joy, peace, and perseverance, every day.
Q: In Hag 2:10-19, why is God making the point about defilement is contagious and holiness is not?
A: As Donald Campbell said, "Work and worship do not sanctify sin, but sin contaminates work and worship." Believer's Bible Commentary p.1155. If God wanted the people to be encouraged to return to Him, on the surface this sounds like it would accomplish the exact opposite. Instead of telling them that they are around holy things, and so they can gradually become more holy, God is telling them that something being holy does NOT make the things around it holy.
What God is doing is telling them that there should be no hope in any natural, "gradual" process. The only end to that is everything becoming defiled ruined. But by putting that out in the open, it shows that it is God, and God alone, working sovereignly in his grace, that will bring about His holiness and glory in that place in Haggai 2:5-10. As for things being ruined, either financially or spiritually, God then goes on to promise that even though they had been under God's severe hand in Haggai 1:5-11, from that point on (actually "upward" in Hebrew) God would shower them with blessings, according to Haggai 2:15-19.
Q: In Hag 2:23, what is the significance of a signet ring?
A: There are at least three interrelated meanings.
In general, a signet ring symbolized the authority of the king. Pharaoh took his signet ring off and gave it to Joseph in Genesis 41:42.
Divine authority to rule. The Messiah would have a signet ring.
Promise that the Messiah would come
Holy Spirit guarantees our future inheritance (NIV Study Bible p.1404) See Ephesians 1:13-14.
Reverse of the curse on Jehoiachin: Jehoiachin was told that even if he were a signet ring on God's right hand, God would pull him off in Jeremiah 22:24-25. Zerubbabel is not merely given a signet ring, but is said to be like God's signet ring.
Q: In Hag 2:23 does God putting the signet ring back on this reverse the curse against Jeconiah's seed and taking the signet ring off in Jer 22:24-29?
A: The curse was not totally cancelled and removed, but the curse was reversed and mitigated. First what some Jewish writers say and then the answer.
Midrash Rabba says: ". . . they made the Calf and deserved to be exterminated, and I would have thought that He would curse and destroy them, yet, no sooner had they repented, than the danger was averted, And the Lord repented of the evil (ib. XXXII, 14). And so in many places. For example, He said about Jekoniah: For no man of his seed shall prosper (Jer. XXII, 30) and it says, I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations... In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet (Hag. II, 22 f.). Thus was annulled that which He had said to his forefather, viz. As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim King of Judah were the signet upon My right hand, yet I would pluck thee thence (Jer. XXII, 24).
(Numbers Rabbah XX:20)"
Midrash Pesikta Rabbati says: "R. Joshua ben Levi, however, argued as follows: Repentance sets aside the entire decree, and prayer half the decree. You find that it was so with Jeconiah, king of Judah. For the Holy One, blessed be He, swore in His anger, As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet on a hand, yet by My right - note, as R. Meir said, that is was by His right hand that God swore - I would pluck thee hence (Jer. 22:24). And what was decreed against Jeconiah? That he die childless. As is said Write ye this man childless (Jer. 22:40). But as soon as he avowed penitence, the Holy One, blessed be He, set aside the decree, as is shown by Scripture's reference to The sons of Jeconiah - the same is Assir - Shealtiel his son, etc. (1 Chron 3:17). And Scripture says further: In that day . . . will I take thee, O Zerubbabel . . . the son of Shealtiel . . . and will make thee as a signet (Haggai 2:23). Behold, then, how penitence can set aside the entire decree!" (Pesikta Rabbati, Piska)
The Answer: A curse can be mitigated without being cancelled. Here is how.
David was promised the Messiah would be his biological descendent: Jesus was through Mary
Jeconiah was cursed that none of his descendants would ever site on David's throne in Jeremiah 22:24-29. None did as king. Joseph was descended from Jeconiah, but Jesus is our king, was not biologically from Joseph.
By birth, none from Jeconiah's house would inherit David's throne
By adoption, Jesus, adopted by Joseph, inherited David's throne.
There is a lot for us to consider here. By birth, none of us are children of God, with any right to be in His kingdom. By adoption, we become children of God and a part of His kingdom.
Sometimes there is a curse or bad consequence we face because of our sinful actions. But if we repent and submit to God, God might not cancel the curse or consequence, but He might reverse the curse and turn it into a blessing.
See http://nazarenespace.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2182335%3ABlogPost%3A172639&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_post for the quotes and more info.
Q: In Hag 2:23, how was Zerubbabel chosen for the future?
A: Zerubbabel was the governor under whom this temple would be rebuilt. But there is more to this than just that honor. Matthew 1:12-13,16 shows that Zerubbabel's descendant, Joseph, was to be the legal father of the Messiah.
As a side note, the name Zerubbabel is an attested Akkadian name, zer babili, meaning descendant of Babylon.
Q: What literary devices did Haggai use?
A: Haggai did not use many; his message is plain and direct versus Zechariah, Solomon, Isaiah. Here is what he used though.
Rhyme: Haggai 1:6 hammistakker, mistakker
Haggai 1:10 'al-ken, 'alekem
Haggai 2:6 'ahat, me'at
Chiasm: Haggai 1:9-11
Antithesis: Haggai 1:6. earn wages to put them in a purse with holes in it
Dialog style like Malachi. Haggai 1:4,5,9; 2:11-13
Repetition within the work: "This is what the Lord says" or similar 26 times in 38 verses
Spirit 3x Haggai 1:14
Pairs of 2 or 4 (but not 3, 5, or greater):
Haggai 1:11 field and mountains, wine and oil, men and cattle.
Haggai 2:2 Zerubbabel and Joshua
Haggai 2:6 heaven and earth, sea and dry land.
Haggai 2:21 heavens and the earth.
Haggai 2:22 royal thrones and foreign kingdoms
Haggai 2:22 chariots and their drivers, horses and their riders.
Q: In Hag, what are some of the earliest manuscripts that still exist today?
A: Dead Sea scrolls: (c.1 B.C.) There is one copies (in two parts) of Haggai among the Dead Sea scrolls. (The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated p.479).
4Q77 (=4QXIIb) contains Haggai 1:1-2; 2:2-4
4Q80 (=4QXIIe) contains Haggai 2:18-21
However, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated p.479 says 4Q80 is almost exclusively Zechariah.
Nahal Hever is a cave near Engedi, that has a fragment of the minor prophets in Greek (8 Hev XIIgr). According to Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.34, it was written between 50 B.C. and 50 A.D.. It was hidden during the Bar Kokhba revolt against Rome. It is a revision of the Septuagint, made in Judea, and almost identical to the Masoretic text.
The wadi Murabb'at scroll (Mur XII) was a "scroll of the Twelve" from c.132 A.D. It contains Haggai 1:1,12-15; 2:1-8,10,12-23 as well as other minor prophets. In Haggai it is identical to the Masoretic except for two words.
Overall, preserved in the Dead Sea scrolls, Nahal Hever and wadi Murabb'at are the following verses from Haggai: 1:1-2, 12-15; 2:1-8,10,12-23. In other words, at least part of every verse except 1:3-11; 2:9,11. See The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls for more details.
Christian Bible manuscripts, from about 350 A.D., contain the Old Testament, including Haggai. Two of these are Vaticanus (325-250 A.D.) and Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.), where the books of the twelve minor prophets were placed before Isaiah. Haggai is complete in both Vaticanus and Alexandrinus.
Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.) also has the entire book of Haggai.
Q: Which early writers referred to Haggai?
A: The Bible refers to Haggai in Ezra 5:1; 6:14, and Hebrews 12:26 paraphrases Haggai 2:6. There is a general allusion to Haggai in Zechariah 8:9
The Septuagint claims Ps 138, 146, 147, 147:12 and 148 are by Haggai and Zechariah.
The Latin Gallican Psalter (389 A.D.) used by Charlemagne's key scholar Alcuin of York, has Psalm 111, 112, 146, and 147 as by Haggai and Zechariah.
In the apocrypha, 1 Esdras 6:1; 7:3; 2 Esdras 1:40 refers to Haggai, and Sirach (=Ecclesiasticus) 4:11) quotes part of Haggai 2:23
The Pre-Nicene writers who referenced or alluded to verses in Haggai are:
X Epistle of Barnabas (100-150 A.D.) ch.16 p.147 is claimed to refer to Haggai 2:10, but it is such a vague allusion that it is not considered here.
Melito of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.) (Implied) mentions the "Old Testament" and lists the books. He does not list the twelve minor prophets individually, but calls them The Twelve. Fragment 4 from the Book of Extracts vol.8 p.759
Clement of Alexandria quotes Haggai 1:6 as "scripture". The Stromata (193-202 A.D.) book 3 ch.6 p.391. He also quotes Haggai 1:6 in The Instructor book 2 ch.3 p.248
Clement of Alexandria (193-205 A.D.) "Jeremiah and Ambacum [Habakkuk] were still prophesying in the time of Zedekiah. In the fifth year of his reign Ezekiel prophesied at Babylon; after him Nahum, then Daniel. After him, again, Haggai and Zechariah prophesied in the time of Darius the First for two years; and then the angel among the twelve." Stromata book 1 ch.21 p.328
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) alludes to the "universal shaking" of the entire world in Haggai 2:6 and Hebrews 12:26,27. On Monogamy ch.16 p.72
Origen (225-254 A.D.) quotes Haggai 2:6 as by Haggai in Origen Against Celsus book 7 ch.30 p.623
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) quotes Haggai 1:12 as by Haggai in Treatises of Cyprian Treatise 12 the third book ch.20 p.541.
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) quotes Haggai 1:9 as by the prophet in Treatises of Cyprian Treatise 5 ch.6 p.459. These are the only two references to Haggai in Cyprian's extant writing.
After Nicea (325 A.D.)
Athanasius of Alexandria (367 A.D.) (Implied because mentions the twelve prophets) "There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; ... then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book...." Athanasius Easter Letter 39 ch.4 p.552.
Ephraem the Syrian (350-378 A.D.)
Basil of Cappadocia (357-378 A.D.)
Cyril of Jerusalem (c.349-386 A.D.) mentions the books of the Prophets, both of the Twelve and of the others. Micah 3:8 as in Micah, Joel 2:28 as in Joel, Haggai 2:4 as in Haggai, Zechariah 1:6 as in Zechariah. Catechetical Lectures Lecture 16.29 p.122
Gregory Nanzianzen (330-391 A.D.)
Syriac Book of Steps (Liber Graduum) (350-400 A.D.) refers to Haggai 1:6 in Memra 7 p.78
Rufinus (374-406 A.D.)
John Chrysostom (-407 A.D.)
Jerome (373-420 A.D.) discusses the books of the Old Testament. He specifically discusses Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch, Job, Jesus son of Nave [Joshua], Judges, Ruth, Samuel Kings (2 books), twelve prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Letter 53 ch.7-8 p.99-101.
Pelagian heretic Theodore of Mopsuestia (392-423/429 A.D.)
Augustine of Hippo (388-Aug 28, 430 A.D.)
The semi-Pelagian John Cassian (419-430 A.D.)
Q: In Hag, what are some of the translation differences between the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint?
A: The first phrase is the Masoretic text, the second is the Septuagint, unless otherwise noted. There are only two small differences in 2:1 and 2:3 between the Masoretic text and wadi Murabb'at according to An Exegetical Commentary p.17 and Benoit et al. Les Grottes de Murabba'at, 184.
Hag 1:1 "by" vs. "by the hand of"
Hag 1:2 "coming" (bo') (Masoretic) vs. "has come" (ba') Septuagint (also NIV)
Hag 1:2 "governor of Judah" vs. "of the tribe of Judah"
Hag 1:8 "bring" vs. "cut" (The Hebrew word the Septuagint based this on is just one letter different)
Hag 1:9 "behold" vs. "to be"
Hag 1:9 "I blew on it" vs. "I blew it away"
Hag 1:9 "Why" vs. "Therefore"
Hag 1:11 "drought in the land" vs. "sword upon the land"
Hag 1:11 "your hands" vs. "their hands"
Hag 1:12 "Then" vs. "And"
Hag 1:12 "their God" vs. "to them"
Hag 1:13 "spoke the message" vs. "spoke among the messengers"
Hag 1:14 "remnant of the people" vs. "remnant of all the people"
Hag 1:14 "came" vs. "went in"
Hag 2:1 "through" (beyad) (Masoretic), vs. "to" ('el) in the wadi Murabb'at scroll (An Exegetical Commentary p.17 and Benoit et al. Les Grottes de Murabba'at, 184.
Hag 2:2 "remnant" vs. "all the remnant"
Hag 2:3 ('oto) (Masoretic) vs. ('itto) in the wadi Murabb'at scroll.
Hag 2:4 "be strong, O Joshua/Jesus" vs. "strengthen yourself, O Joshua/Jesus"
Hag 2:4 "be strong ... people of the land" vs. "strengthen yourselves, ... people of the land"
Hag 2:5 "The word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so my spirit" vs. "my spirit"
Hag 2:6 "once more" vs. "yet/still once" (See An Exegetical Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi p.41-42.)
Hag 2:9 "Lord Almighty" vs. "Lord Almighty: and/even peace of soul, for a possession / to save every one / all those who laid the foundations to raise up this temple."
Hag 2:14 "and so is every work" vs. "and so are all the works"
Hag 2:14 "defiled" vs. "defiled, because of their early burdens / quickly won gains, they will suffer for their labors/toils, and you (plural) hated / have hated those dispensing justice at the city gate / in the gates."
Hag 2:22 "throne of the kingdom" vs. "thrones of kings"
Hag 2:22 "sword of his brother" vs. "sword striving against his brother"
Hag 2:23 "Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel" vs. "Zerubbabel, the son of Salathiel, my servant"
Hag 2:23 "signet" vs. "seal"
Bibliography for this question: the Hebrew translation is from Jay P. Green's Literal Translation and the Septuagint rendering is from Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton's translation of The Septuagint : Greek and English. The Expositor's Bible Commentary and the footnotes in the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV Bibles also were used.
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