Theological Themes in Haggai
Judgment and hope
Haggai gives the people a word of judgment and a word of hope. The returned exiles struggle with many challenges, including economic hardships and agricultural blights. The prophet provides a reason for the hardships: the Lord’s The Jerusalem temple, unlike the tabernacle, was a permanent structure, although (like the tabernacle) it was a place of worship and religious activity. On one occasion Jesus felt such activity was unacceptable and, as reported in all four Gospels, drove from the temple those engaged… More still lies in ruins while the people live in houses (1:9). The remedy, then, is clear: the people must rebuild the temple; then the Lord will bless them with prosperity. Not only that, but the Lord will defeat the nations around them and will reestablish a Davidic ruler on the throne. The people will be as they once were, worshiping at the temple and ruled by a descendant of Second king of Israel, David united the northern and southern kingdoms. More. Such is the promise Haggai gives the people, and it inspires them to rebuild the temple.
The promise of prosperity
Haggai promises that rebuilding the temple will usher in an era of prosperity for the people. This should not be seen as proposing a bargain with God that will ensure immediate divine favor, since that is explicitly rejected by biblical theology (Deuteronomy 10:17-18; Psalm 50:12-15). A rebuilt temple will be the place of God’s presence, and God’s presence brings the fullness of God’s promises. The promise of prosperity rejoices in God’s good gifts in the present, but also looks to the future (“On that day”–2:23) in which finally all things will be transformed into what God intends them to be. The greater splendor of the new temple and the overthrow of all competing nations are poetic visions of God’s perfect rule to come. The assurance of that promise brings hope and life in the present, despite the real difficulties experienced by the returning exiles.