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Haggai: Haggai 1:1-Identification of the Date, Origin, Agency and Recipients of the First Message Lesson # 8

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Haggai: Haggai 1:1-Identification of the Date, Origin, Agency and Recipients of the First Message

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Haggai 1:1 On the first day of the sixth month of King Darius’ second year, the Lord spoke this message through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak. (NET)
Haggai 1:1 presents the introduction which is composed of four parts: (1) The identification of the historical context when the message was communicated to the recipients. (2) The prophetic word formula which identifies the divine origin of this message. (3) The identification of the prophet who is the agency communicating this message. (4) The identification of the recipients of this message.
This introduction asserts that the Lord communicated this message through the prophet Haggai on the first day of the sixth month of the second year of Darius who history records was the Persian king Darius I Hystaspes who reigned from 522-486 B.C.
One must not confuse Darius mentioned in Haggai 1:1 with Darius the Mede who appears in the book of Daniel since he was sixty-two when he began to rule according to Daniel 5:31 (6:1).
Furthermore, the Darius of Haggai 1:1 was of a Persian royal line because his father, Hystaspes, was of the Achaemenid dynasty while on the other hand, the father of Darius the Mede was Ahasuerus who was of Median descent according to Daniel 9:1.
The Darius in Haggai 1:1 took the throne by a coup d’état whereas Cyrus appointed the Darius of Daniel 9:1 to be king over Babylon.
Darius I Hystaspes is mentioned in Ezra 4:5, 24; 5:5-7; 6:1, 12, 15 as well as Haggai 1:1; 2:10; Zechariah 1:1, 7; 7:1 whereas Darius the Mede is only mentioned in the book of Daniel (6:1, 6, 9, 25, 28; 9:1; 11:1).
Notice, the precision in which Haggai 1:1 dates this message from the Lord to the remnant of Judah.
R.A. Taylor writes “The use of exact dates at the beginning of prophetic oracles is not unusual in biblical literature from this general period (cf., e.g., Ezek 1:1–2; 8:1; Zech 1:1, 7; 7:1). But the repeated occurrence of precise dates in a book as brief as Haggai is striking.[1] No other prophetic book exceeds Haggai in terms of its density of dated material.[2] The specificity with which these dates are given in Haggai serves two purposes. First, it underscores the factuality of the events that are described, situating them within a verifiable historical context. Second, it lends credibility to the predictive portions of the prophet’s message, since his accuracy on past allusions can be readily established.[3] The dates cited in Haggai reveal that the prophet’s recorded ministry spanned only a very brief time. The events of this book are confined to a period of about three and a half months. In that brief time Haggai was able to move his community from stark apathy to vigorous action. That a single individual was able to accomplish so much in so short a time speaks impressively of the prophet’s effectiveness.”[4]
We must remember that after the exile, the Jews adopted the Babylonian calendar which began the year in the spring.
Our calendar in the twenty-first century begins January 1, in the middle of the winter.
The sixth month in Haggai 1:1 would therefore, correspond to the month of August in our Gregorian calendar.
Therefore, when Haggai 1:1 asserts that this first message to the remnant of Judah was delivered on the first day of the sixth month of King Darius’ second year, this would be Elul 1 according to the Jewish calendar, which in our modern Julian calendar was August 29, 520 B.C.
Now, in the historical books of the Old Testament, prior to the Babylonian exile, the prophets would usually date the events with reference to a king of Judah or Israel but the Jews had no king in the days of Haggai since they were now under Gentile control and in particular they were under the Persian Empire.
Now, as we noted, when the southern kingdom of Judah returned from Babylon, they continued to follow the Babylonian calendar and their year in the spring rather than the fall (cf. Ex. 23:16; 34:22).
Now, each new month began with a new moon and the Israelites celebrated the occasion with a New Moon festival (cf. Num. 28:11-15; Isa. 1:14; Hos. 2:11) which was a time of rest (Amos 8:5) and rejoicing (Hos. 2:11).
Therefore, this first message the Lord communicated through the prophet Haggai would therefore, be presented on a day when most Jews would have been in Jerusalem for this festival.
Now, as we noted, the second part of the introduction which appears in Haggai 1:1 contains the prophet word formula, which is the expression ḏeḇǎr-yeh·wā(h)ʹ (דְבַר־יְהוָ֜ה), “The Lord spoke this message.”
This expression in the Old Testament also is an earmark of inspiration indicating that what the prophet is communicating to people in writing is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is a revelation of God’s will (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21).
It is the typical introductory phrase used among the prophetic books (cf. Jeremiah 1:2; Ezekiel 1:3; Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1; Jonah 1:1; Micah 1:1; Haggai 1:1; Malachi 1:1) and asserts the prophecy originates with God and not the prophet.
Now, Haggai 1:1 identifies the prophet Haggai as the instrument or agency which the Lord employed to communicate this message to the leadership of the remnant of Judah.
The prophet was unique among the prophets of Israel in that his words were listened and obeyed.
Haggai 1:1 identifies Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest as the recipients of this first of four messages from the God of Israel through the prophet Haggai.
Of course, the contents of this first message which appear in Haggai 1:2-11 make clear that the remnant of Judah are also recipients of this message since these two men would communicate this message to this remnant of Jews who returned from Babylon.
Zerubbabel is also the grandson of King Jehoiachin according to the genealogies of Jesus found in Matthew and Luke (Matt. 1:12-13; Luke 3:27) and he is named in Ezra 2:2 as one of the leaders of the Jewish remnant returning from Babylon.
His father is identified as Shealtiel who is identified in Scripture as the son of Jeconiah, the last king of Judah before the final Babylonian deportation in 586 B.C. (1 Chr. 3:17; Ezra 3:8; 3:2; Neh. 12:1; Hag. 1:12, 14; 2:2, 23; Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27).
Therefore, Zerubbabel was a descendant of king David because he was from Judah and descendant from the kings of Judah (Hag. 1:1).
Now, 1 Chronicles 3:19 appears to contradict Haggai 1:1 since the former reveals that Pedaiah was his father and Shealtiel his uncle but this problem can be resolved with either through adoption or levirate law.
This would then indicate that when Pedaiah died, his brother Shealtiel adopted Zerubbabel or Shealtiel adopted him after Pedaiah died.
Joshua the son of Jehozadak is identified in Haggai 1:1 as the high priest of the remnant of Judah and he was taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. (1 Chron. 6:15; cf. Ezra 3:2, 8; Neh. 12:1, 8), but then returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in approximately 537 B.C. (Ezra 2:2).
The descendants of his family also returned (Ezra 2:36; cf. 2:40) and he evidently was the grandson of Seraiah, who was the high priest when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, whom Nebuchadnezzar executed at Riblah (2 Kgs. 25:18-21; Jer. 52:24-27).
Some translations of Haggai 1:1 have Jehozadak as the high priest (cf. ASV, NASB, NIV, NRSV.
However, Zechariah 3:1, 8 clearly indicate that Joshua was high priest (see also Ezra 5:1–2; cf. NAB).
The same potential misunderstanding occurs in Hag 1:12, 14 and 2:2, where the same solution has been employed in the translation.[5]
Together, Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah and Joshua, the high priest of this kingdom represented the political and religious leadership in the nation respectively.
They led the remnant of Judah in rebuilding the altar and restoring sacrifices in Jerusalem (Ezra 3:2-6) and they also began building the temple but quit when they were faced with strong opposition.
They appealed to King Artaxerxes (Ezra 3:8-4:24) and they later corresponded with King Darius in order to recover Cyrus’ proclamation authorizing the rebuilding of the temple and this was after Joshua followed the instructions of Zechariah and Haggai.
They finally renewed efforts to rebuild the temple (Ezra 5:2-6:15; Hag. 1:1, 12-14; 2:4) and completed the task in 515 B.C.
[1] E. H. Merrill likens Haggai’s interest in chronology (and Zechariah’s as well) to that found in extrabiblical texts of roughly the same period, pointing out that such attention “is characteristic of the annalistic style of history writing employed in Neo-Babylonian and Persian times” (An Exegetical Commentary: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi [Chicago: Moody, 1994], 4).
[2] So R. B. Dillard and T. Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 423; S. Amsler, “Aggée, Zacharie 1–8,” in Aggée, Zacharie 1–8, Zacharie 9–14, Malachie, 2d ed., CAT 11c (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1988), 9.
[3] See further P. A. Verhoef, “Notes on the Dates in the Book of Haggai,” in Text and Context: Old Testament and Semitic Studies for F. C. Fensham (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1988), 263–64.
[4] Taylor, R. A., & Clendenen, E. R. (2004). Haggai, Malachi (Vol. 21A, p. 106). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
ASV American Standard Version (1901)
NASB New American Standard Bible
NIV The New International Version
NRSV New Revised Standard Version (1989)
NAB The New American Bible
[5] Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
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