Devotional Commentary on Haggai 1


It is with great joy that I got to learn about the commentary in 1860 of August Köhler, Die Weissagungen von Haggai’s erklärt. Actually the almost Adventist scholar, Friedrich Delitzsch suggested him in the 1884 translation of Delitzsch as a good source. Indeed.

We do not know much about Haggai. Churchfather Jerome said that Haggai, Maleachi and John the Baptist were not really people but angels in human form (Köhler, 1860: 3). It is based on a misreading of the word “messenger” in 1:13. Connected with Mark 1:2 extrapolating Maleachi 3:1, Jerome ended with angel from the Greek word angelos or aggelos. But it is not correct.

Then there is the issue of the time of Haggai. There were four Darius kings although both Köhler and Delitzsch mentioned only three but identified the correct one of Haggai. Darius the Mede (Gobryas which is my Darius I); Darius Hystapis (II [mine] but I [Köhler & Delitzsch]); Darius Nothus (III, II); Darius Codomannus (IV, III).

The times of these Darius figures are: I = 539-538 BCE; II 518 as the second year (521-486 BCE); III 423-404 BCE; IV 336-331 BCE (The dates is from the Adventist Siegfried Schwantes book A short history of the Ancient Near East 1974, pages 143-149).

People who were contemporaries of Haggai still remembered the 586 BCE temple of Solomon in its glory. They could not have lived until the III and IV’th Darius. Thus, with Josephus in Antiquities XI, 2 and 3; with Jerome; with Theodor of Mopsuestia; with Theodoret; with John Calvin; with Capellus; with Petavius and with Delitzsch and also Köhler (1860: 8) we have to agree that it was Darius Hystapis and the date is 520 BCE.

In the 1944 Sabbath School Quarterly on page 23 we read: “Haggai probably went to Jerusalem with the first contingent of exiles under Zerubbabel about 536 B. c. He delivered his messages to the people about sixteen years later.” The date is 520 BCE.

The dating information is reliable in the 1963 citation by A. V. Wallenkampf Sabbath School Quarterly on the Minor Prophets page 38: “Haggai's courageous ministry was responsible for the resumption of the rebuilding of the Temple in the time of Darius I, after the work had ceased for some time (Ezra 4:24; 5:1). . . . The consecutive order of the book of Haggai would indicate that his whole recorded ministry lasted not longer than 3 [and a half] months, beginning (ch. 1:1) on Aug. 29, 520 B.C., and extending, in his last two recorded speeches (ch. 2:10, 20), to Dec. 18, 520. The work of no other prophet can be dated so definitely as that of Haggai.” (citing from The S.D.A. Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 24).

Scholars in the Orthodoxy period wanted to see Darius Nothus of 423 BCE to be the king but that is impossible: J. Schaliger (1593); J. Tarnovius (1624); J. Piscator (1644); A. Strauchius (1664). What this illustrates is that people go with the trend even if it is wrong without investigating. Is it still safe to say that Adventists do not go with the trend or stream but investigate carefully and even go against the stream if the Bible so require? I would hope for the affirmative.

If Haggai came with the order of Cyrus to return with Zerubabel in 536 BCE, Ezra 1:5, 2:64. Priest and Levites, also 42360 with 7337 young men and maidens; 736 animals; 245 more; 435 camels; 6720 donkeys. Also the temple vases were returned.

Köhler, 1860: 11 at footnote 1 wants to raise the issue that there is an error in the text of Ezra that it reads in 1:9-10 that there were 2499 vessels counted by Cyrus’ officials given back to Sheshbazzar and that this number do not correlate with 1:11 that there were a total of 5400 items. My answer is this: there is a problem but not an error in Ezra. The problem is not in the accountancy but in the disappearance of the total items. They were either stolen or after usage at the king’s banquets, never returned. What verse 11 is giving, is what is expected to be the total. What verses 9-10 are giving is the reality check.

Dating by Haggai is very precise and this style of historiography was a spirit of the time. Jeremiah did the same and also Zechariah. Chronological precision was expected.

The people that returned had a problem. They were saying that the time is not yet there to build the temple (verse 2).

God spoke through Haggai saying to them whether they could live with wooden walls for their houses but the House of the Lord is in ruins (verse 4). The whole concept is not really the building but the worship. How long are you people going to take to properly relate to me in worship? God is hungry for good and proper and consecrated worship which is His right as creator of the very beings that should worship His love. Sin blinded them not to see His love and thus Haggai’s messages.

The Lord said literally translated: “Place to your heart upon your ways” (verse 5). Modern translations would be “consider your ways” but English cannot captivate the essential core of the Hebrew here. While walking on your ways of life, place in the direction of your heart and thinking, God for a change. Stop thinking of materialism of your family and start focusing on God.

They struggle to get around successfully: sow but harvest little (verse 6); eat but not filled; drink, the same; dress but is still cold. God is the supplier of all our material needs. Fighting to kill debts is not the first and only task in the world. Worshipping Him will do it faster and more efficient. That is the principle that they miss here. It is a matter of skew stewardship.

The Lord repeated again that very semantic loaded Hebrew phrase: “Place to your heart upon your ways” (verse 7).

He wants them to come ascending the Temple mount, bring wood and build a house. He will accept it and by doing so they will honor Him (verse 8). This last phrase is really the issue. Honoring God. They failed to honor Him.

Materialistically inclined they looked for much but it became little (verse 9). Welcome to California, or Capetown, or Seoul, or New York, or Tokyo, or Hong Kong. You name it, it is a metropolitan disease. God’s house is in ruins “yet you run each to his house.” Trying to make end’s meat they are busy and more busy and again busy. Too busy to focus on God. Neglecting consecration time, true worship, quiet time with the Lord, they try to achieve by themselves. God says they are foolish.

Because of the remnant’s actions, South Africa is in a severe drought at present. That is what Haggai 1:10-11 says. There is no if’s or but’s. Our remnant in that area has done something not in line with the precepts of God and not with the correct spirit of consecration. That is what Haggai is saying to drought plagued areas across the globe. It is not dry because of the evil that evil people do but the evil that the remnant is doing. That is where the solution also lies. Back to God ASAP.

According to verse 12, Zerubbabel, Joshua the High Priest, the remnant of the people listened to the cry of the Lord “and the people feared from before the Lord” (literal translation of the Hebrew). This fear is not ghost scariness. This is respect and true consecration to Him immediately.

The Lord cannot stay away from true dedication to Him. It is a magnet that pulls Him among them: “I am with you” He said (verse 13).

The Lord then inspired the spirit of Zerubbabel, Joshua, the remnant of the people “and they came and performed labor in the house of the Lord of Hosts their God”. Beautiful. Immediate unreserved commitment of their all to God.

Haggai ended this beautiful event with a dating to put it exactly in history on the proper date. He spoke to them on the 29th of August 520 and they consecrated themselves on the 21st of September 520 BCE. This is our Julian calendar but they were following the Hebrew calendar which occurred all in the same month since they were calculating with a lunar reckoning so that their year consisted of 354 days. They would add every three years an extra Intercalary month to come in line with the sun-reckoning. Thus, the months were slipping back so that it was the same month that the event happened in Haggai but not in our Julian solar calendar.


Dear God

What a lesson of true stewardship that people consecrated themselves unreservedly and wholeheartedly. Also us, Lord. Also us. In Jesus name. Amen.