The Story of Haggai
The *Jews did not obey God. He sent them into exile. This was 587 B.C. (B.C. means years Before Christ came to earth.) Exile means that they lived away from Judah. They lived in Babylon. Babylon is now in Iraq. King Cyrus beat Babylon in 537 *B.C. Cyrus sent the *Jews home to Judah. He told them that they should build their *temple again. And he wrote it down. Cyrus was the king of Persia (Iran). The *Jews made an *altar and *foundations for the *temple. Then they stopped. This was because enemies made it hard for them to build. For 17 years, they built their own houses. They did not finish God’s *temple.
Haggai was a *prophet. He spoke to the *Jews (God’s people) at about the same time as Zecharaiah did.
In 520 *B.C., Haggai spoke to the *Jews. He told them that they must build the *temple. This time they must finish it. He told the *Jews that God was angry with them. Three things showed them this:
· inflation (their money did not buy as much as it had done)
· bad crops (crops are plants for food)
· bad weather.
Enemies again tried to stop them. This time they found what Cyrus wrote. He wrote that the *Jews must build the *temple. He also wrote that the government must pay for it! The *Jews obeyed Haggai. They made new *foundations and they finished the *temple in 4 years.
v1 Darius was the king of Iran. (This was 520 years before Jesus came to earth.) On 29 August the *LORD spoke to Haggai. Haggai was a *prophet. The *LORD said, ‘Tell this to Zerubbabel and Joshua.’ Zerubbabel was the leader of Judah. He was the son of Shealtiel. Joshua was the *High Priest. He was the son of Jehozadak.
v2 The *LORD of everything says, ‘Everybody says that it is not time to build the house of the *LORD.’ v3 The word of the *LORD came by the *prophet Haggai. He said, v4 ‘You are living in good houses, but the house (of the *LORD) is a *ruin.’ v5 The *LORD of everything says, ‘Think again about what you are doing. v6 You planted many seeds, but not much grew. There is not enough to eat. There is not enough to drink. Your clothes do not keep you warm. Your money bag is like something full of holes.’ v7 The *LORD of everything says: ‘Think again about what you are doing.
v8 Go to the mountains and bring back wood. Build my house. It will make me happy. It will give me *glory.’ This is what the *LORD says. v9 ‘You looked for a lot, but you saw little. When you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?’ This is what the *LORD of everything answers: ‘Because my house is a *ruin, while you work (to mend) your houses.
v10 So, there is no rain from the skies and there is no fruit from the earth. v11 I sent the *drought on the fields and mountains. I sent the *drought on the *corn and on the new *wine. I sent the *drought on the *oil and on the fruit of the earth. Also on men and *cattle and the work that men do.’
v12 Then all these people obeyed the voice of the *LORD their God:
· Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel
· Joshua the *High Priest, the son of Jehozadak
· all the *remnant of the people.
They obeyed the message of the *prophet Haggai. This was because the *LORD had sent Haggai. The people were afraid of the *LORD. v13 Haggai was the *messenger of the *LORD. He spoke the message of the *LORD. Haggai told the people, ‘The *LORD says, “I am with you.” ’
v14 So this was how the *LORD *stirred up Zerubbabel. He was the leader of Judah and the son of Shealtiel. The *LORD also *stirred up Joshua. He was the *High Priest and the son of Jehozadak. The *LORD also *stirred up all the *remnant of the people. They all came and they worked in the house of the *LORD. He is the *LORD of everything. He was their God. v15 This was on 21 September. Darius was in his second year as king.
What Chapter 1 means
Verse 2 God is *LORD of all that we can see. That is what *LORD of everything means. He is also *LORD of all that we cannot see. The house of the *LORD is the *temple in Jerusalem.
Verse 5 We know from verse 4 what they were doing. They were building good houses for themselves. They were not building the house of God.
Verse 6 A bag with holes in it means that their money did not buy very much. It was soon gone. This is because of what we now call *inflation. *Inflation is when things cost more and more.
Verse 8 There were trees on the mountains near Jerusalem. These would give wood for the *temple. There were also many stones near Jerusalem. These would make walls.
Verse 9 ‘Blew away’ is another picture of *inflation (see note on verse 6).
Verse 11 *Drought means no rain. The *cattle died.
Verse 13 Haggai did not say what he liked. He said what God told him.
v1 On 17 October the *LORD spoke to Haggai the *prophet. He said, v2 ‘Speak now to:
· Zerubbabel; he is leader of Judah and son of Shealtiel
· Joshua; he is the *High Priest and the son of Jehozadak
· the *remnant of the people also.
Say this to them. v3 Some of you remember this house in its first *glory. (I know) how you see it now. You say, “It is not as good.” ’ v4 But the *LORD says, ‘Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Joshua, the *High Priest and son of Jehozadak. Everybody must be strong.’ The *LORD says: ‘Work, because I am with you. v5 My *spirit is still with you. Do not be afraid. This is what we agreed when you came out of Egypt.’
v6 The *LORD of everything says, ‘Soon I will *shake the skies and the earth. I will *shake the sea and the dry land. v7 I will *shake all the *nations. Everything that I love will come. It will come from all the *nations. My house will fill with *glory.’ The *LORD of everything says this. v8 ‘The *silver is mine and the gold is mine’, says the *LORD of everything. v9 ‘You are building me a house. The *glory of it will be great. It will be greater than the *glory of the old house.’ This is what the *LORD of everything says. ‘In this place I will give *peace’, says the *LORD of everything.
v10 On 18 December Darius was in his second year as king. The *LORD spoke to Haggai the *prophet. He said, v11 ‘The *LORD of everything says, “Ask the *priests this. v12 If somebody:
· has *holy food for God in his bag
· then he touches bread, meat, *wine, *oil or any other food
· will the bread, meat, *wine or *oil become *holy?” ’
The *priests answered, ‘No’. v13 Then Haggai said, ‘What happens if he touches a dead body? If he (then) touches something else, will that become *unholy?’ The *priests said ‘Yes’.
v14 Then Haggai said, ‘This country and this *nation were like that to me, says the *LORD. Also everything that their hands made was like that. What they offer is not *holy. v15 Now, think again about this. Think, before you build one stone on another in the *temple of the *LORD. v16 When you came for 20 (buckets of *corn) there were only 10. And when you came for 50 (buckets) of *wine there were only 20. v17 I hit you with *blight, *mildew and *hail. I did this to all your work, but you did not turn to me. This is what the *LORD says. v18 Think about what you are doing. Think from today, 18 December, to the future. Today we put down the *foundation of the *temple of the *LORD. Think about it. v19 The *corn is not in the *barn. The *grapes, *figs, *pomegranates and the *olives have not given fruit. But from today I will be good to you.’
v20 Again on 18 December the *LORD spoke to Haggai. He said, v21 ‘Tell Zerubbabel the leader of Judah, I will *shake the skies and the earth. v22 I will knock down the kings of the earth. I will destroy the strong *kingdoms of the world. I will destroy their arms and those that use them. Their soldiers will fall from their horses. They will fight each other. v23 In that day, says the *LORD of everything, I will make my servant like a special finger ring. My servant is Zerubbabel. He is the son of Shealtiel. The *LORD of everything says, “I chose you.” ’
What Chapter 2 means
Verse 3 ‘in its first *glory’ means as it was 70 years before. This was before Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed it. Old people said that the new *temple was not as good as the old *temple.
Verse 5 ‘when you came out of Egypt’ means the promise God made then. (See Exodus 19:4-6.) That was 1400 years *B.C. ‘My *spirit’ here means God.
Verses 6-7 ‘*Shake’ is what a strong wind does to leaves! ‘Everything that I love … from all the *nations’ means: ‘their valuable things of gold and *silver’ and ‘their people that God loves’.
Verse 9 The *glory of the *temple will be greater because Jesus will teach in it! (See Mark 12:35; Matthew 21:14,15. But see also Matthew 12:6.) It is only Jesus that offers the world *peace.
Verse 12 The things that we give to God will not make anyone *holy. The food in his bag is what the *priest will offer to God.
Verse 13 To understand this, think about water. If you put dirty water into clean water, it will all be dirty. If you put clean water into dirty water, it will still all be dirty.
Verse 14 People cannot make each other *holy, because people are bad. They are like the dirty water in the verse above.
Verse 16 This means that not much fruit came from their plants.
Verse 17 *Blight, *mildew and *hail means bad weather and bad times when the plants grew. God did this.
Verse 19 ‘I will be good’ means that God will not send *drought, bad *crops and *inflation.
Verse 22 This tells us that God is king of history! History is the story of the world. God decides what will happen. And he decides what will not happen.
Haggai’s message for us
Haggai spoke 3 times to the *Jews:
· On 29 August 520 *B.C. It is in Haggai 1:2-11.
· On 17 October 520 *B.C. It is in Haggai 2:3-9.
· On 18 December 520 *B.C. It is in Haggai 2:11-23.
We call these words prophecies. A prophecy is what a *prophet says.
Enemies caused trouble. The *Jews were afraid. So they said, ‘It is not time to build the *temple.’ So they built their houses. God was angry. He spoke to the *Jews by what happened:
· the weather was bad (Haggai 1:10)
· there was not much to eat or drink (Haggai 1:6)
· their money did not buy much (Haggai 1:6).
Then God spoke by Haggai. He said. ‘Think again about what you are doing.’ God sometimes tells us to do something. It becomes very difficult. It may become dangerous. So we stop doing it. Haggai says to us, ‘Do not stop or *give up!’ That is why we called this book ‘Never *Give Up!’
The *Jews thought of another reason to stop work. Some of them were very old. They remembered the first *temple. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it in 587 *B.C. ‘This new *temple is not so good’, they said. The *LORD said, ‘Work, because I am with you.’ Then he said that this was an old plan. He made it when they came out from Egypt. That was 1000 years before! Then God told them his secret! This new *temple will become better than the old *temple. There are many reasons. ‘Everything that I love will come. It will come from all the *nations. My house will fill with *glory’ (verse 7). This was because Jesus would come to the new *temple.
This is a strange message! In the new *temple they would offer food to God. The food would be sheep or small birds. It was *holy because they offered it to God. If it touched anything else would that become *holy? The answer was no. This means a good person cannot make another person good. Only God can make someone good. But a bad person can make another person bad! This is what verse 13 means. God says that some *Jews are bad. They make the other *Jews bad also. This is why God sent bad weather and bad fruits. But now everything will become different. ‘From today I will be good to you’ (verse 19). This is because the *Jews obeyed God. There is a bit more in verses 21-23. It did not happen in 520 *B.C. It never happened. But it will happen in the future.
Something to do
Learn to know when God is speaking to you. He does this:
· when we read the Bible
· when we pray
· when we are with other Christians.
We do not hear a voice. Instead, an idea comes into our minds. We must always check that the idea is not a bad one. If it is against what the Bible tells us, it is a bad idea. Then we must ask God for help. Then we must obey God. Usually we must wait for the right time to obey God.
altar ~ a special table in a *temple.
B.C. ~ 50 B.C. means the year that was 50 years before Jesus came, and so on.
barn ~ building where farmers keep their fruit and animal food.
blight ~ something that makes plants ill.
cattle ~ cows, sheep and goats.
corn ~ a food plant that we make bread from.
crops ~ plants for food.
drought ~ no rain for a long time.
fig ~ a fruit.
foundation ~ the hard ground that people build houses on.
give up ~ to stop doing something good.
glory ~ something that shines very much and is very beautiful.
grape ~ a fruit.
hail ~ rain made from ice.
High Priest ~ the leader of the *priests.
holy ~ very, very good; only God is really holy.
inflation ~ when things cost more and more.
Jew ~ a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
kingdom ~ the land that a king rules.
LORD ~ a special name for God: only his people use it. Really, it is the covenant name for God. A covenant is when two or more people agree together. Here, God and his people agree. LORD translates Yahweh or Jehovah in the language called Hebrew. It is not the same as Lord, which means someone with authority. Lord can be another name for God.
messenger ~ someone that brings a message.
mildew ~ something that makes plants ill.
nation ~ leaders and all the people in one country.
oil ~ not oil for cars, but a food made from *olives.
olive ~ a fruit.
peace ~ when there is no war and we do not fight anyone.
pomegranate ~ a fruit.
priests ~ servants of God in his house or *temple.
prophecy ~ the message that a *prophet brings.
prophet ~ someone that speaks for God; sometimes a prophet says what will happen in the future.
remnant ~ a little bit that is left over (here it means a few *Jews that still loved God).
ruin ~ something that people have knocked; they have broken or destroyed it.
shake ~ move something from one side to another many times and very fast.
silver ~ a beautiful metal of great value.
spirit ~ the part of us that still lives when our body dies. (The *Holy Spirit is another name for God, like *LORD and Lord; here ‘my spirit’ is a name for God.)
stirred up ~ here it means ‘caused somebody to do something’; usually it means ‘mixed’.
temple ~ here, the house of God in Jerusalem. (The *Jews had several other temples.)
unholy ~ the opposite of *holy.
wine ~ a drink with alcohol in it; people make it from *grapes.
Kohlenberger ~ Hebrew-English Old Testament ~ Zondervan 1987
Brenton ~ Septuagint ~ Hendrickson 1995
Ellicott ~ Bible Commentary for English Readers in 6 volumes ~ Cassell
Fausset ~ Critical and Experimental Commentary in 6 volumes ~ Collins 1866
Lukyn Williams ~ The Minor Prophets Unfolded ~ SPCK 1920
Eaton ~ The Torch Bible Commentary ~ SCM 1961
Baldwin ~ Tyndale OT Commentary ~ IVP 1972
Mitchell-Smith-Brewer ~ International Critical Commentary ~ 1912 Edn T & T Clark
Oxford Bible Atlas, 3rd Edn ~ OUP 1995
Bibles ~ A large number of translations, including KJV, RV, RSV, NEB, GNB, NIV, NRSV, JB, RJB, LB, RLB, BFTD, TP and REB