Summary: The Book of Haggai is addressed to the captives that have returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. The book contains four appeals.
Haggai takes us back to the time when the Babylonian captives were permitted to return to their homeland. In 538BC, the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the prediction the people from Judah and Jerusalem will spend seventy years in captivity (Jeremiah 25), “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord His God be with him, and let him go up!’” (2nd Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4).
Cyrus returned the articles taken from the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, in 605 (Daniel 1:2), in 597 (2nd Kings 24:13), and in 586 (2nd Kings 25:14-15; Jeremiah 27:16-22), the temple furniture was destroyed in 586 (2nd Kings 25:13; Jeremiah 3:16). The neighbors of the Jews were ordered to support their return to Judah and Jerusalem with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, and a freewill offering (Ezra 1:5). About fifty thousand Jews took advantage of the proclamation (Ezra 2:64-65), returning to Judah in 536BC, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, who Cyrus appointed governor of Judah.
Zerubbabel,the governor, Joshua, the high priest, and men from all the cities in Judah rebuilt the brazen altar and in the seventh month, the beginning of the Feast of Trumpets (Numbers 29:1-6) they offered burnt offerings to the Lord, and celebrated the Feast of Booths, which lasted from the fifteenth to the twenty-second of the seventh month. The foundation of the temple was laid in 535BC. The Levites, twenty years and older, were appointed overseeers of the restoration of the temple (Ezra 3:7-13) and restoration of the temple began.
When the Samaritans, the descendants from the intermarriages of Israelites and foreigners who were transplanted to Samaria by the king of Assyria in 669BC heard the temple was being restored offered their help in restoring the temple. When the offer was rejected they began harassing the workers and did whatever they could to hinder the restoration of the temple, which included obtaining an injunction prohibiting the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem that was torn down by the Babylonians.
When Darius ascended to the throne of Persia he confirmed Cyrus’ proclamation and overturned the injunction. Instead of returning to the restoration of the temple the people began to make excuses why they were not restoring the temple. They claimed this was not the right time to restore the temple because they were in the sixty-eighth year of the seventy year captivity predicted by Jeremiah (chapter 25). They were busy building houses for themselves, planting crops, tending their flocks and vineyards.
The work stoppage caused by the injunction, although it only applied to the building of the wall, was under-standable. But now that the injunction was overturned, even though the Samaritans continued to harass the workers and do whatever they could do to hinder the restoration this was no reason for not resuming the restoration of the temple.
Like many professing Christians today, the Jews were using their situation as an excuse for not obeying the will of the Lord. They are too busy doing their own thing, which is temporary and will come to no good end rather than doing what is eternal and will bring joy and happiness.
The Lord will do what He did before the Israelites went into captivity. He will explain to them why they are in the situation they are just as He revealed through Ezekiel why they were taken into captivity.
Verses one and two - “In the second year of Darius the king of Persia, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel...governor of Judah and Joshua ...the high priest, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.”’”
The Lord of hosts doesn’t call the exiles “His people” because they were ignoring His will. They say the time is not right to restore the temple. They used the injunction against the rebuilding of the wall as an excuse for not restoring the temple. They used the harassment of the Samaritans as an excuse for not restoring the temple. Now that the injunction has been overturned and the harassment by the Samaritans has declined because they lack the support of the Persian, they are using the need to build houses for yourselves and your families and providing food and clothing for themselves and their families as an excuse for not restoring the temple.