Monday, July 23, 2018

The Hubub of Haggai: Introduction

The Hubub of Haggai

Haggai comes from the Hebrew word “Chag,” meaning “Feast,” and so Haggai means, “Festive.” His name reminds us of the Feasts of the LORD and thus obedience to Torah by keeping the Feasts and in some way, mostly though the sacrifices, Haggai’s name leads us to the Temple and the Temple seems to be the theme of Haggai’s book. He along with Zechariah encourages who was returning from exile in which Zephaniah predicted.

Because of Chapter two verse three, it appears Haggai was born before the destruction of the Temple and thus may have been old enough to remember the Glory of Solomon’s Temple before Nebuchadnezzar razed it in 586 BCE and if so, Haggai would have been in his 70’s or 80’s after the writing of this book. Perhaps his age, death may account for the brevity of his ministry and book.

Haggai was written approximately 520 BCE and is the first of three post exilic books among the 12 minor prophets in the Tanak (Zechariah and Malachi), Haggai is the second shortest of the minor prophetic books and was a contemporary of Zechariah.

Haggai is mentioned by name twice in the book of Ezra, another longer prophetic book which focuses on the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls and getting back to a Torah Obedience which ultimately lead to revival.

Because of the details given, being the 2nd year of the reign of King Darius of Persia (520 BCE) who inherited Israeli captives from Babylon whom they conquered. The events of this book can be dated more accurately than other prophecies in the Scripture. If you will recall Daniel prophesied to King Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson (Belshazzar) though the “hand writing on the wall” that the Medo-Persians would conquer Babylon (Dan. 5).

Cyrus was the king of Persia whom the ADONAI declared the time of Judah's return from exile.

Ezra 1:1-4 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and 4 put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, he is the God, which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.

Darius was a later successor to Cyrus as king of Persia. He reiterated Cyrus' original decree at the time when the rebuilding of Jerusalem had started, but was not yet completed.

Ezra 6:1-12 Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written: In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits; With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king's house: And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, everyone to his place, and place them in the house of God. Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence: Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place. Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail: That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons. Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this. And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.

King Darius gave the go ahead to restart the work of rebuilding the Temple (521 BCE).

Ezra 4:24 Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Haggai ministered in 520 BCE between the months of August and December (Elul and Keslev). During these four months Haggai delivered four messages that were meant to do two things. Encourage and support Zerubbabel the Jewish governor with whom the exiles returned and Joshua the High Priest and to encourage them to organize and mobilize the people to build the Temple and to live a life obedient to Torah. However, due to opposition by outside enemies and inside by self-centeredness, all that was accomplished was the Temples foundation being laid. Work on the Temple began again in 516 BCE but no one knows for sure whether Haggai lived to see its completion.

Rambam and Rashi said in reference to Perkei Avot 1:1 that Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, the last three prophets were among the 120 members of the “Great Assembly” which led Israel during the 2nd Temple Era. It is said and believed that Ezra headed this Assembly and among the leadership was Joshua the High Priest who was Ezra’s nephew, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and others, some of which are recorded in Ezra 2:1-2.

I have entitled this commentary, “The Hubbub of Haggai” because when something of great excitement occurs sometimes people ask, “What’s all the hubbub, Bub?” Meaning, “What’s all the excitement?” Haggai’s name conjures excitement for his name means festive. So what’s all the hubbub of Haggai? The excitement of the opportunity to return from exile, rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem and get back to living Torah Obedient lives. All this causes us to excitedly look forward to the rebuilding of the 3rd Temple and the return of the Prophet, Priest and King, Messiah Yeshua!