It is interesting that there are three prophetical books along with three historical books that deal with the time of the post-captivity of the tribe of Judah. More interesting is that these three books are at the end of their relevant sections, i.e. the last three historical books, and the last three prophetical books. The three prophetical books are Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, and the historical books are Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. The times of the gentiles commenced when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came and destroyed Jerusalem and took captives back to Babylon. The prophecies of Ezekiel and Daniel most notably, occurred in the time of the Babylonian empire, which was the first of the world empires.
The name Haggai means, “My feasts.” This book was written after the Jews returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. The prophecy of Haggai was during the times of the gentiles, and especially after king Cyrus issued a decree for Jews in his province to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the altar and temple of God in Jerusalem (2 Chron 36). A small number of people returned under Zerubbabel and later Ezra, rebuilt the foundations of the altar, and commenced rebuilding the temple. In Ezra, the people had built the altar and were commencing on the temple when enemies came along and had the work ceased through crafty letters to the king. A description of this is in Ezra 4. Then in chapter 5 of Ezra we read of Haggai and Zechariah prophesying and encouraging the Jews to continue the work. This was a time of recovery for the Jews who had been taken captive for 70 years and returned to Jerusalem. We can be sure that in times of recovery, where believers have the work of God in mind, the enemy, the devil, will interfere and cause work to cease. This is what happened here with the small remnant who returned.
In the book of Haggai, we see Christ in the promise of chapter 2:9, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith Jehovah of hosts; and in this place will I give peace, saith Jehovah of hosts.” This points to the second temple when it was filled with the glory of God every time Christ came to Jerusalem when He was on earth. Also, we see Christ portrayed in the person of Zerubbabel in chapter 2:23, “In that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, will I take thee, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, my servant, saith Jehovah, and will make thee as a signet; for I have chosen thee, saith Jehovah of hosts.” We have seen previously that Zerubbabel is in the line of Christ (Luke 3:27). He is like the signet ring, sealing both branches together.
We see in Haggai the message for the Jews to do God’s work. As the temple building stopped, they were focussing on building their houses, businesses, and concentrating on their personal affairs and left God’s work out (Haggai 1:4). If people are going about their personal and business things, the adversary, the devil, will not interfere and make them stop. However, when it comes to the work of God, then be sure that Satan will interfere and do anything to make the work stop, but do not be disheartened, the Lord is much more powerful than any enemy and if we are sincere, He will give strength to continue in His work regardless of opposition and enmity.
There are a few peculiar items of interest in the prophecy of Haggai. The first is the seven questions of God to His people to search their hearts and lead them to real revival. It is true that the people never literally went back to idol worship after the captivity, but was their heart toward God and His interests? This is a challenge to all of us. The references to the seven questions are in chap. 1:4.9; 2:3 (twice).12.13.19.
The second interesting thing in Haggai is that God addresses the people five times, and these addresses can be used to divide the book of Haggai. God appeals to the people five times to consider their ways. These passages are in chap. 1:5.7; 2:15.18.19.
- The first message in chapter 1:1-11 is one of reproof and warning, and to arouse their hearts to resume building the temple of God.
- The second message in chapter 1:12-15 was for more encouragement when the people obeyed. The view is toward the time of the end when the Lord will appear and reign on the earth in the future.
- The third message in chapter 2:1-9 contrasts the glory of the first house with the greater glory of the second house and introduces the glory of the Lord in His reign on the earth. In this message, the fact is drawn that heavens and earth will be shaken before Christ will be revealed. Compare Hag. 2:6-7 with Heb. 12:26-28).
- The fourth message in chapter 2:10-19 contains moral instructions and the assurance of blessing in view of addressing the people in warning them against spiritual defilement.
- The last message presents the conclusion of the message of Haggai, points still more prominently to the day of the Lord, and encouraging the people to look to the future, when heaven and earth is to be shaken and the kingdoms of the nations will be overthrown. In the last verse, Zerubbabel, the servant of the Lord, is a prophetic type of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This outline is adapted from Arend Remmers and Arno Gaebelein’s notes and outlines of the book of Haggai. The full outline and notes from the above authors are available on www.biblecentre.org, a website highly recommended and full of rich resources.