Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament; only Obadiah is shorter.
Haggai is thought to have been about eighty years old when he prophesied, which may have been a factor that accounts for his very brief ministry. The entire book covers only a four-month span.
This book is set in the context of the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile and the subsequent rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Sixteen years after the rebuilding began, the people had yet to finish the project because their personal affairs had God’s business. Only twenty-three days after his first oracle, the people began to work on the temple for the first time.
It was through the ministry of Haggai (along with Zechariah) that the rebuilding of the temple progressed (see Ezra 5:1-2). Haggai was a contemporary of Zechariah. He was the practical doer, while Zechariah was the visionary.
This book records not only the oracles of Haggai, but also his ministry and the response of the people to it. He preached a fiery series of sermonettes designed to stir up the nation to finish the temple. He called the builders to renewed courage in the Lord, renewed holiness of life, and renewed faith in God who controls the future.
He called the builders to renewed courage in the only thing that proves that a man belongs to God, which is the righteousness of his life. But what is righteousness? John’s Gospel is clear and unequivocal on this subject: to be righteous is to love our brothers. That, says John, is a duty about which we should never be in any doubt (John 15:12,13).
Haggai and Malachi were two minor prophets who addressed key issues faced by both the church and the home today. Included in their books are such things as attitudes, priorities, the use of money, the problem of divorce, and the second coming of Christ.
Apart from the book that bears his name, Haggai is mentioned only in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14.
The name Haggai means “feast” or “festival,” which usually refers to the three pilgrimage feasts (Feasts of Unleavened Bread, Weeks, and Tabernacles) of the Jewish religious calendar. It has been suggested that he may have been born during one of these festive celebrations.