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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

Haggai - Introduction

Following three prophetic books set in the late preexilic period, Haggai, along with the subsequent Zechariah and Malachi, is set in the postexilic period. After the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BCE, he not only published a decree allowing the captive Jews to return to Judah but also encouraged them to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 1.1–4 ), a policy confirmed by his successor Darius I (Ezra 5.17–6.5 ). It is possible that under Sheshbazzar, the leader of those who returned, rebuilding was immediately attempted (Ezra 1.8; 2.68; 5.14–16 ). By 520 BCE, however, no significant progress was evident (Ezra 3.1–7; 5.16 ). A renewed effort was then begun, and the new Temple was completed in the spring of 515 BCE (Ezra 6.14–16 ).

Along with Zechariah (see Introduction to Zechariah), the person principally responsible for this major accomplishment was the prophet Haggai. Outside of references to him in Ezra 5.1 and 6.14 , nothing is known about Haggai. The book bearing his name contains no biographical data, beyond confirming his pivotal role in inspiring the Jewish leadership and populace to complete reconstruction of the Temple, the ritual, economic, administrative, and symbolic center of their community.

Haggai exhorted Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, the joint leaders of the Judean community, to assume official leadership in the reconstruction of the Temple, and urged the priests to purify the practices of worship. These twin projects were, first of all, urgent practical steps toward unifying the disrupted religious life of the community. But Haggai also saw them as necessary preparations for the ideal age.

The book is organized in five sections ( 1.1–11; 1.12–15a; 1.15b–2.9; 2.10–19; 2.20–23 ), each precisely dated from the sixth through the ninth months of 520 BCE. The precision of the date formulas is rivaled among the prophets only by those of his contemporary Zechariah (cf. Zech 1.1,7; 7.1 ). Four of these sections begin with date formulas and contain addresses of Haggai, and one ( 1.12–15a , in which the date formula is at the end rather than the beginning) records the response of Haggai's audience.

The initial section ( 1.1–11 ) is an oracle of judgment directed against the people for failing to complete the Temple. In the next section, 1.12–15a , the people respond favorably. The two following sections ( 6, 12–16.9; 2.10–19 ) are oracles encouraging the people in their efforts. The final section ( 2.20–23 ) is an oracle of salvation, promising that the reconstruction of the Temple will be followed by cosmic upheaval, divine defeat of earthly kingdoms, and the exaltation of Zerubbabel, perhaps even as the ruler of a restored kingdom of David.

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