("my feast".) A name given in anticipation of the joyous return from exile. Perhaps a Levite, as the rabbis say he was buried at Jerusalem among the priests. Tradition represents him as returning with the first exiles from Babylon his birthplace, under Zerubbabel 536 B.C., when Cyrus, actuated by Isaiah's prophecies concerning himself (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1), decreed the Jews' restoration and the rebuilding of the temple, for which he furnished all necessaries. (See CYRUS; EZRA; AHASUERUS; ARTAXERXES; DARIUS.) In spite of Samaritan opposition the temple building went on under Cyrus and Cambyses (Ahasuerus Ezra 4:6); but under the Magian usurper Smerdis (Artaxerxes Ezra 4:7-23) the Samaritans procured a royal decree suspending the work.
Hence, the Jews became so indifferent about it that when Darius came to the throne (521 B.C.), whose accession virtually nullified the usurper's prohibition, they pretended that as the prophecy of the 70 years applied to the temple as well as to the captivity in Babylon (Haggai 1:2), they were only in the 68th year, and that, the time not yet having come, they might build splendid cieled mansions for themselves. Haggai first, and Zechariah two months later, were commissioned by Jehovah (Haggai 1:1) in Darius' (Hystaspes) second year, 520 B.C., to rouse them from their selfishness to resume the work which had been suspended for 14 years. The dates of his four distinct prophecies are given.
I. (Haggai 1). On the first day of the 6th month of Darius' second year of reigning, 520 B.C. Reproves their apathy in leaving the temple in ruins; reminds them of their ill fortune because of their neglect of God's house. In consequence, within 24 days they began building under Zerubbabel (Haggai 1:12-15).
II. (Haggai 2:1-9). Predicts that the new temple's glory will exceed that of Solomon's temple; therefore the outward inferiority which had moved the elders to tears at the foundation laying (Ezra 3:10-13) ought not to discourage them. Isaiah (Isaiah 60; Isaiah 2:2-4), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 3:16-18), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 40-48), similarly, had foretold the glory of the latter house; but the temple then being built so far showed no signs of glory, Haggai shows wherein the glory should consist, namely, in the presence of Him who is "the Desire of all nations." Many object that the Hebrew "desire" (chemdath) being singular, and "shall come" being plural (bauw), the singular must be collective for "desirable things shall come," namely, silver and gold.
But when two nouns come together, one singular the other plural, the verb may agree with the latter. Besides Messiah is "all desires," containing collectively all desirable things in Himself such as they missed in the present temple, splendor, riches, etc. (Song of Solomon 5:16). The desires of all nations can find their satisfaction in Him alone. He embodies the "good things to come," "to Him shall the gathering of the people be" (Genesis 49:10). He comes in His veiled glory to the temple at His first advent (Matthew 21:12-14), in His revealed glory at His second advent (Malachi 3:1). The glory of the latter house did not exceed that of the former except in Messiah's advent; the silver and gold brought to it scarcely equaled those of Solomon's temple, and certainly all nations did not bring their desirable things to it. The KJV is therefore right. The masculine plural verb implies that the feminine singular noun is an abstract for a masculine concrete.
III. (Haggai 2:10-19). On the 24th day of the 9th month, when building materials were collected and the workmen had begun to build; from this time God promises to bless them. He rectifies their past error of thinking that outward observances cleanse away the sin of disobeying God, as for instance in respect to the temple building. (Holy flesh of sacrifice sanctifies the skirt in which it is carried, but cannot sanctify anything beyond, as bread: Leviticus 6:27. On the other hand, an unclean person imparts his uncleanness to anything he touches. So ceremonialism cannot sanctify the unclean person, but the unclean defiles all he touches).
IV. (Haggai 2:20-23). On the same day as III, addressed to Zerubbabel, the representative of the theocracy, who asked about the national revolutions foretold in II. (Haggai 2:7). Judah, whose representative Zerubbabel was, shall remain, as a signet ring secure, while God makes an end of other nations (Jeremiah 46:28). The time occupied by Haggai's prophecies is three months. The temple was completed in the sixth year of Darius' reign, 515-516 B.C. (Ezra 6:14). The style of Haggai is prose-like but pathetic in exhortation, vehement in reproof, and lofty in contemplating the glorious future, Repetitions (e.g., "saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts" Haggai 1:2; Haggai 1:5; Haggai 1:7; Haggai 2:4 thrice; "the Spirit" thrice in Haggai 1:14) and interrogations impart a simple earnestness of tone calculated to awaken from apathy to solemn attention.
Haggai is referred to in Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14, and in New Testament, Hebrews 12:26; compare Haggai 2:6-7; Haggai 2:22. The final earthly shaking of kingdoms is preparing the way for the "kingdom that cannot be moved." The Septuagint associate Haggai and Zechariah in the titles of Psalm 137; Psalm 145-148; the Vulgate in the titles of Psalm 111; 145; the Syriac in those of Psalm 125; Psalm 126; Psalm 145-148. Haggai according to Pseudo-Epiphanius (De Vitis Proph.) first chanted the Hallelujah, the hymn of Haggai and Zechariah, in the second temple. The Hallelujah psalms belong certainly to the period after the return from Babylon.
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'haggai' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".