Haggai 1


Around eighteen years after the Jews returned to their homeland from their Babylonian captivity, God called upon His prophet Haggai to speak to His people.

This was some 60-70 years after Habakkuk. At this point, the temple in Jerusalem was in absolute ruins and the leaders were extremely discouraged because of the horrendous opposition that they faced when they initially returned to the land.

The Samaritans had been developing in the land and didn’t want the Jews to re-establish their identity, so as we can imagine, there was some weariness among the leaders of the returned Jews, Ezra / Nehemiah.

When Haggai arrived on the scene, Darius Hystaspes was the king of Persia. King Cyrus had previously ordered a decree to stop the rebuilding of the temple, but Darius was interested in the development of local religious beliefs, so he, reversed the decree. The Jews were special to him because God had foretold through the prophet Isaiah this would happen, Isaiah 44:28 / Ezra 1:1ff.

Cyrus was shown this prophecy and saw its significance. It was through the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, that God commanded the Jews to rebuild the temple.


The date of Haggai’s writing is generally accepted as being 520 B.C., Haggai 1:1 / Haggai 2:1 / Haggai 2:10 / Haggai 2:20. In 536 B.C. the Jews came back from captivity and the foundation of the temple was laid. In 539 B.C. the work had stopped because of the Samaritans. Why? Because the Jews referred to themselves as the remnant of God.

In 520 B.C. Haggai is an old man and his job is to encourage the people to complete the temple. In 516 B.C. the temple is finished. In 458 B.C. Ezra comes back to fix the work within the temple and in 445 B.C. Nehemiah comes back to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.


As with most of the prophets, we don’t really know a lot about Haggai’s personal life, we do know that his name means ‘Festival’ or ‘Festive’. It’s possible that he may have been one of the captives taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. He is mentioned in Ezra 5:1 and Ezra 6:14, and his work lasted three months and thirty-one days.

He began his ministry about sixteen years after his return. The foundation of the temple had been laid shortly after the arrival under the leadership of Zerubbabel in 536 B.C., Ezra 3:8-13, but the rebuilding work of the temple was stopped because of opposition from the Samaritans, this opposition lasted sixteen years, Ezra 4:1-24, it was then that God raised up His prophets Haggai and Zechariah, Ezra 5:1-2 / Ezra 6:14. His message is fairly straightforward, God says ‘finish building His temple’.


Haggai’s first prophecy. Haggai 1:2-11
The effect of his message. Haggai 1:12-15
Haggai’s second prophecy was delivered a month after the first. Haggai 2:1-9
Haggai’s third prophecy was delivered two months and three days after the second. Haggai 2:10-19
Haggai’s fourth prophecy was delivered on the same day as the third. Haggai 2:20-23

These discourses are referred to in Ezra 5:1 / Ezra 6:14.

‘In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.’ Haggai 1:1-2

God spoke to Haggai during the reign of Darius in 520 B.C., and what better time to deliver the message than sitting around a table enjoying some food and fellowship, it came during a Jewish feast, 2 Kings 4:23 / Amos 8:5. This was a perfect time because everyone was together, and so Haggai took full advantage of the occasion to deliver a message to encourage the leaders to start building again.

His First Message

The message was given to Joshua the high priest and to Zerubbabel the governor of Judah, who led the first group of exiles back home. He is called the son of Pedaiah in 1 Chronicles 3:19. Although he was the son of Pedaiah, through a levirate marriage he was also the legal son of Shealtiel. Because his grandfather was King Jehoiachin, he was a descendant of the Davidic kings, Haggai 2:20-23.

Joshua was the first high priest after the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, Ezra 2:1-2 / Ezra 2:36 / Ezra 2:40 / Ezra 3:2-8. His father was the high priest who was taken into captivity, 1 Chronicles 6:15, and his grandfather, Seraiah, was killed by Nebuchadnezzar when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C., 2 Kings 25:18-21.

For possibly around 15 years there has been no building and they said it’s not a good time to start building. It’s easy to understand why the Jews thought it wasn’t time to start rebuilding the temple again, they thought the opposition they were getting from the Samaritans, was actually a sign from God to say ‘don’t build the temple’, Jeremiah 25:11.

The Temple

If you’ve ever studied the Book of Hebrews you will notice that one word, a word which you would think would be mentioned in the letter, isn’t mentioned at all. Do you know what that one word is? It’s the word temple. Why is that? Well, it’s not mentioned because God never asked for a temple to be built in the first place, 1 Chronicles 17:1-6.

The building of the temple was David’s idea, not God’s. God says, when have I ever asked for a house to be built? God gave Moses up on the mountain instructions pertaining to the construction of the tabernacle and its contents, but you won’t find anywhere in the Bible where God gave instructions about the construction of the temple.

So why is God emphasising the importance of the temple being built here in Haggai? After all, it’s going to be destroyed in A.D. 70. What made the temple so important at this point in time? After all, the proper sacrifices and rituals could be carried out on a makeshift altar. Could it be that this was more about obedience to the will of God? Could it be that God’s reputation was at stake?

Could it be that God couldn’t be properly honoured so long as the house He called home lay in ruins? Could it be that the temple symbolised God’s presence and Israel’s priorities? Could it be that God is so upset and then punished them, to get their attention? Proverbs 20:30.

God used pain in their lives to get them back on the right track, obedience to God.

‘Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?’ Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.’ Haggai 1:3-6

It appears the people have become very comfortable in the land, they’re making themselves at home and looking after themselves. However, they had got to the point where they had either forgotten or totally neglected God’s house and so Haggai needs to remind them about their priorities.

Panelled houses were usually made out of stone and mud, but here the people are just using wood. The wood came from Lebanon and it was expensive to buy and expensive to transport. It seems they were spending all their money on D.I.Y. whilst God’s house was in ruins.

‘Give careful thought’ is a phrase which appears throughout the book, Haggai 1:5 / Haggai 1:7 / Haggai 2:15 / Haggai 2:18. In the above verse, God wants them to seriously think about what they are doing and what’s happening around them.

We have a picture of famine and want which was the result of their neglect. It’s possible that there was a famine happening at this time because of their disobedience, Deuteronomy 17:16 / Deuteronomy 28:20 / Deuteronomy 32:34 / Jeremiah 44:12 / Jeremiah 42:19.

They were too busy looking after their own physical lives, they neglected their spiritual lives and because of this God wasn’t allowing them to prosper, Matthew 6:25-34. They put a lot of effort into their work, but they received little in return.

Jamieson, in his commentary, says the following concerning verse 6.

‘Nothing has prospered with you while you neglected your duty to God.’

‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured,’ says the LORD. ‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labour of your hands.’ Haggai 1:7-11

God again, says to His people, you need to seriously think about this, if they want to get out of this situation, they need to start the building work on the temple again and everything will be alright and God would reward them because God will be glorified.

God admonished them to go up to the mountains so that they could get wood for the temple. Why the urgency? God had earlier promised that He would have the temple rebuilt, but at the moment this wasn’t happening, Isaiah 40-60.

They wanted so much for themselves, but God wasn’t allowing it to happen, again, they looked for much, but God blew it away. Because they were busy building their houses, God’s house lay in ruins and so, God had called for a drought on the land and its fruit in an effort to get them to listen and finish building what they had neglected to finish, Matthew 6:33.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning verse 10.

‘These are most significant words, and they point squarely to the following passage from Genesis, Cursed is the ground FOR THY SAKE! Genesis 3:17. The teaching of the Bible reveals emphatically that providential intervention is continual, and a constant possibility in all of the affairs of men. God often called for drought upon Israel, and sent prophets to announce it in advance, nor are such episodes confined to the Old Testament. Agabus prophesied a four-year famine under Claudius Caesar, Acts 11:28. That was in this current dispensation and the same God who can foretell a great drought can as easily send or withhold it! All such impediments to man’s ease and prosperity are intended as guideposts to point him to the Father in heaven. For Adam’s sake, Genesis 3:17, For your sake, Haggai 1:10.

‘Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD. Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: ‘I am with you,’ declares the LORD. So, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month. In the second year of King Darius.’ Haggai 1:12-15

The Effect Of His Message

The people respond to the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua in fearful obedience to God’s commands and within 24 hours the people are back to work, Haggai 1:1 / Haggai 1:15.

If they work, they will be blessed but if they don’t, they won’t be. How did Haggai get them back to work? He spoke the word of the Lord.

Notice the promise from God, He says to them, ‘I am with you’, Genesis 28:15 / Exodus 3:12 / Haggai 2:4 / James 1:5. Because the people feared the Lord and had the promise of His presence, the people are happy to get on with the work, Matthew 28:20. Haggai’s first message was to stir up the people into action, it was successful.


Good spiritual leadership is so important, especially when it comes to God’s work within His church. If God can motivate the leaders to do something, then other people will follow.

If evangelism isn’t important to the leadership, then the chances are, evangelism won’t be important to the congregation, if Bible study isn’t important to the leadership, then studying the Bible won’t be important to the congregation. It’s important that leaders, lead from the front and set the example for the rest of the church to follow, John 13:15 / 1 Corinthians 11:1 / 1 Peter 5:2-3.

Through Haggai’s message, Zerubbabel and Joshua managed to encourage the Jews to do two things, obey and fear God.

Fear and obedience are topics which are often overlooked these days, they are sometimes seen as old fashioned and out of date. The truth is, we cannot ignore these topics, as they are central to our being and central to what God wants from everyone, Ecclesiastes 12:13.

‘Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.’ Ecclesiastes 12:13

Go To Haggai 2