Haggai, Book of
HAGGAI, BOOK OF
The tenth of the 12 minor prophets according to the biblical arrangement of books, but the first of the postexilic Prophets. His name (spelled Aggaeus in the Vulgate and Aggeus in the Douay Old Testament), is a derivative from the Hebrew ḥhag, meaning feast. Though probably not a priest himself (Hg 2.11), he may have exercised some official duties at the national sanctuary of Jerusalem, perhaps as a cult prophet or preacher.
A wholly new style of prophetic preaching is discernible in the short compilation of Haggai's sermons. While the earlier Prophets upbraided the nation for excessive concern over Temple ritual and called for a return to strong and sincere morality (Hos 6.4–6; Is 1.11–17; Jer7.1–8.3), Haggai, instead, was entirely preoccupied with the reconstruction of the Temple and the correct compliance with ceremonial laws (Ezr 5.1; 6.14). Here, as in almost all postexilic writing, the preponderant influence of the priest-prophet Ezekiel is manifest. Not only do Haggai's ideas manifest little or no originality, but his style is prosaic and unimpressive, especially when compared with the poetic rhythm and rich imagery of the earlier Prophets. Attempts to versify his lines remain hypothetical.
An ancient editor of the book indicates that the Prophet spoke four or possibly five times in the second year of darius i, king of persia, between Aug. 29 and Dec. 18, 520 b.c. [Hg 1.1; 2.1, 10, 15, 20; conversion of the dates are based on R. A. Parker and W. H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 625 B.C.–A.D. 75 (Providence 1956) 30]. The land of the Jews in Palestine had shrunk to about 20 by 25 miles, with a population no greater than 20,000. It belonged to the province of Samaria, which was part of the fifth Persian satrapy of ‘Abar Nahara ["across the River" (Euphrates)]. The country was harrassed with drought and depression (Hg 1.6, 9–11; 2.15–17); grasping, quarreling Jews were guilty of much injustice, even selling their fellow citizens into slavery (Neh 5; Mal 3.5). The neighboring districts, Samaria to the north and Edom to the south, were despised and hated (Ezr 4; Mal 1.3; Ob); and they, in their turn, threatened to invade Judah.
The first discourse (Hg 1.1–15a) presents Haggai's blunt condemnation of the people for living in "paneled houses, while this house [the Temple] lies in ruin" (1.4). The prophet attributed the crop failures to the nation's religious laziness and therefore demanded immediate action on the Temple's reconstruction. He obtained a favorable reaction from the people. Some exegetes transfer the speech of 2.15–19 immediately after 1.15a, which is regarded as the date introducing it, on the basis that a date is prefixed to every one of Haggai's discourses. In that case, this short book would contain five instead of four sermons.
The second discourse (1.15b–2.9), the most important of all from a theological point of view, was spoken on the second-last day of the octave of the Feast of booths (cf. Lv 23.34; Dt 16.13). Haggai's words ring with high messianic hopes, possibly because the feast included a thanksgiving service at the Temple for the year's harvest (Lv 23.39–41; 1 Kgs 8.2). He would have thought of the final harvesting of messianic blessings at the same Temple. The messianic hopes can also be accounted for by international events: Darius's quick seizure of the throne and his repulsive measures against all rebels. God too could act as decisively and quickly as Darius. Although the Vulgate recognizes a personal Messiah in 2.7,e.g., "the Desired One of all the nations," the Hebrew text and the Greek Septuagint refer to "the treasures,"i.e., the contributions and talents of all nations flowing into the Temple and having a part in the liturgy.
The third discourse (2.10–14 or 2.10–19) centers on the power of evil to spread and propagate more surely than goodness. Haggai may here be rejecting the Samaritan offer to help on the reconstruction of the Temple (Ezr4.1–5) for fear that they might contaminate the chosen people.
In the last discourse (2.20–23) Haggai reiterated the hope in a marvelous intervention when Yahweh would save His people through a Davidic king.
Bibliography: p. r. ackroyd in Peake's Commentary on the Bible, ed. m. black and h. h. rowley (New York 1962) 562a–563i. s. bullough, Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, ed. b. orchard et al. (London-New York 1957) 543a–544k. t. chary, Les Prophètes et la culte à partir de l'Exil (Tournai 1955) 118–138. a. gelin, "Introduction aux prophètes," Bible de Jérusalem (Paris 1957—). t. h. robinson and f. horst, Die zwölf kleinen Propheten, [Handbuch zum Alten Testament, ed. o. eissfeldt 14 (Tübingen 1954)]. j. schildenberger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 1:188. r. bach, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 1957–65) 3:25–26. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 42–43.