Lesson 1 of5
In Progress

Summary of Haggai


The prophet Haggai, in 520 B.C.E., urges those who have returned from Babylonian exile, including Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor, to rebuild the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Haggai blames their lack of prosperity on the fact that the temple still lies in ruins while they themselves live in paneled houses. The people are moved by Haggai’s prophecy to start rebuilding the temple. Through Haggai, the Lord promises to be with the people and to make this second temple greater than the first. Haggai’s book ends with a prophecy for Zerubbabel, a descendant of David. When the Lord defeats the nations, Zerubbabel will become like a “signet ring” on God’s hand; he will be the Lord’s chosen ruler.


Haggai gives us a glimpse into a critical period in Jewish history, when those who have returned from exile are struggling to reshape their identity as a people in the land of their ancestors. To help in forming that identity, Haggai looks to the past, evoking the Exodus from Egypt (2:5), and to the future–the vision of a glorious rebuilt temple (2:9) and a new Davidic ruler (2:23). Hope for the future rests on God’s faithfulness in the past.


Haggai is the thirty-seventh book of the Old Testament. It is the tenth of the so-called “minor” (or shorter) prophets, the twelve books that make up the final portion of the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles.


We don’t know who compiled Haggai’s prophecies into the book that bears his name, but the dominant “voice” in the book is that of Haggai himself. He was a prophet who lived in Judah in the years after the Babylonian exile. We don’t know whether he was one of those who returned from exile in Babylon or whether he had remained in Judah during the exile. In any case, he was a figure of great influence in rebuilding the temple. Outside of the book of Haggai, he is referred to in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 as a prophet.


The book of Haggai can be dated very accurately. According to several chronological notes in the book itself, Haggai prophesied in the latter half of the year 520 B.C.E. His prophecies must have been written down shortly thereafter.


The prophet Haggai in 520 B.C.E. exhorts the leaders and people who have returned from Babylonian exile to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and they obey.


Perhaps more than any other prophetic book, Haggai is based in a particular time and place: Judah in the latter half of 520 B.C.E. For that reason, it is necessary to know the historical circumstances of the book in order to read it with understanding. One should also pay attention to Haggai’s focus on the future, his vision of a restored temple and a Davidic ruler. Such a vision inspired hope and a renewed sense of identity for a people newly returned from exile.