What Is the Book of Haggai About?

Time: 7 Minutes

Hey Friend!

Our editorial team wrote this book introduction for you. We hope it helps you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspires you to open this book of the Bible!

One of the greatest tragedies in Israelite history was the destruction of the temple and Israel’s deportation from their land. God sent his people into captivity for their repeated sin against him.

After 70 years in exile, Persia let the Israelites go home according to God’s plan. What they returned to felt nothing like home. Living spaces, landscaping, industry, and the temple lay in ruins—all broken, overgrown, desolate. Think of the concerns racing through their minds: Where will spend the night? How will we provide for ourselves? What about privacy? What about safety? The anxious crew planted and worked, and when they looked at the temple—God’s house—that lay in ruins, they said, “that can wait” (Haggai 1:4).

Do you see that in this case, the people saw God and his house as a to-do-list item? He was one responsibility among many, not the relationship from which all of life flowed, as he ought to be.

We are no different than the Israelites. How often do we try to take care of ourselves and neglect worshipping God? How often do we prioritize daily responsibilities over our relationship with God?

The book of Haggai demonstrates God’s gracious initiative to restore himself as the central concern of the Israelites’ lives—and our lives.

The book of Haggai demonstrates God’s gracious initiative to restore himself as the central concern of the Israelites’ lives—and our lives.

God sent Israel the prophet Haggai to open Israel’s eyes to their folly. God did not rebuke Israel for their work; he rebuked their independence—thinking they can live and work without him. Because of their neglect, God had ruined their harvest. He did this to get their attention and remind them that he is the source of their provision. When they didn’t respond, he sent Haggai to explain.

In his grace, God reminds the Israelites of his presence (Haggai 1:13) and tells them to prioritize building the temple. In effect, he says, “I’m not a place; I’m a person. I’m your provider, and what you need most is to prioritize me.” God sent a prophet, spoke to set them straight, and then strengthened their spirits to rebuild the temple (Haggai 1:14).

Have you ever become excited to seek God and then felt discouraged because you expected big change and only saw small progress? God knew that as the people began building, discouragement haunted them, as they remembered the temple from long ago, the glorious one their enemies burned to the ground. They saw little progress and feared a bleak future.

God knew their hearts and so he sent Haggai to strengthen them, telling them that the same God who dwelled in the former temple dwelled among them (Haggai 2:3-5). God was saying, “I am the glory of the temple, not the building, not the stones, not the decorations.”

Once Israel sought God and prioritized him, God blessed them. C.S. Lewis summarizes Haggai’s message well when he says, “Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”

We can’t forget about an important figure in the book of Haggai: Zerubbabel. He is the governor of Judah (Haggai 1:1), but more importantly, he is King David’s descendant. His presence among the people indicates that God is keeping his covenantal promises to David and Israel (2 Samuel 7:7). Even as the Israelites are recovering from the exile, God is working to fulfill his promises for Israel. He has never left his people—his discipline did not mean his desertion.

God confronts his people to restore their relationship with him, to reaffirm his promises to them and his love for them, and to reignite hope in them that he is not finished with his plan.

The temple they set out to rebuild was only a shadow of a greater temple to come. But this temple is not a house of sorts; it’s a person!

God’s sent us his Son Jesus, who “dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of the glory of God. We have the fullness of God in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19). And guess what?

This Jesus is a descendant of Zerubbabel! He is the promised “latter glory” which will be “greater than the former” glory (Haggai 2:9). It is through this “latter glory” that God promises the gift of peace. Jesus Christ—God himself come in the flesh—is our promised gift of peace (Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20).

It is through a relationship with Jesus, through honoring him as our priority that we experience true blessing and true rest.