Postexilic prophecy begins with Haggai, who received the word of the Lord in the second year of Darius (520 B.C.). The Jews who returned from the exile in Babylonia had encountered formidable obstacles in their efforts to re-establish Jewish life in Judah. The Samaritans had succeeded in blocking the rebuilding of the temple; but after Darius acceded to the throne (522), permission was given to resume the work. At this critical moment, when defeatism and a certain lethargy had overtaken his repatriated countrymen, Haggai came forward with his exhortations to them to complete the great task. The first oracle, an appeal to the Jews, is contained in Hag 1. To this appeal Haggai added a short oracle of encouragement (⇒ Haggai 2:1-9) for the sake of those who gloomily contrasted the former magnificence of Solomon’s temple with the second temple: the Lord would be present in this new abode, and its glory, enhanced by the offerings of the Gentiles, would surpass the ancient splendor.
The prophecy may be divided into five oracles:
The call to rebuild the temple. The economic distress so apparent in Judah is due to the Jews’ neglect of the Lord while they provide for their own needs (⇒ Haggai 1:1-15).
The future glory of the new temple, surpassing that of the old (⇒ Haggai 2:1-9).
Unworthiness of a people, who may be the Samaritans, to offer sacrifice at the newly restored altar. This oracle is cast in the literary form of a torah, an instruction given the people by a priest (⇒ Haggai 2:10-14).
A promise of immediate blessings, which follows upon the undertaking (Hag 1) to rebuild the temple (⇒ Haggai 2:15-19).
A pledge to Zerubbabel, descendant of David, repository of the messianic hopes (⇒ Haggai 2:20-23).