A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Jonah/Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah/Haggai and his Prophecies

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The prophet Haggai is known only through his book. True, he is mentioned with Zechariah in Ezr. 51 and 614, but the statements there found are so clearly based on the book attributed to him that they are of no value except to show that a writer about the beginning of the third century B.C. believed him to have been a historical character. Nor is there any direct information in the book of Haggai with reference to the origin or personal history of its author. In most other cases the name of the prophet's father is given (Is. 11), or that of the place of his birth or residence (Am. 11), or both (Je. 11); but here both are omitted. This fact, together with the further circumstance that the Hebrew word ḥaggay[1] may mean my feasts, gives some plausibility to the hypothesis[2] that this book, like that of Malachi, was originally an anonymous work, and that the name Haggai, more correctly, Haggay, was given to it because the prophecies it contained were all dated on feast-days. The name Haggai, however, differs from Malachi in that, as will be shown in the comments, it can be referred to a numerous class having the same form. Moreover, while it is true that the first of the prophecies attributed to Haggai was delivered on the first of the month, and the second on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles,[3] there is, as André himself admits, no evidence that the twenty-fourth of the ninth was ever celebrated as a festival by the Hebrews. There is, therefore, as good ground for accepting the historical reality of Haggai as that, for example, of Habakkuk.

There was current among the early Christians a more or less distinct tradition to the effect that Haggai was of priestly lineage. It appears in a statement of a certain Dorotheus, whom Delitzsch[4] identifies with a bishop of Tyre of the same name, that, when Haggai died, "he was buried with honour near the sepulchre of the priests, where the priests were customarily buried;"[5] but it is given in a more complete form by Hesychius, who says that the prophet "was buried near the sepulchre of the priests with honour, like them, because he was of priestly stock."[6] It should also be noted as in harmony with this tradition that, in the versions, the name of Haggai appears in the titles of some of the Psalms.[7] This external testimony is not in itself of so much value, but it would deserve more serious consideration if there were internal evidence to support it. There are those who claim that there is such evidence. They find it, first, in the tone and purpose of the book, which seems to them to betray the personal interest of a priest in the restoration of the worship by which his order had subsisted before the Exile;[8] and, second, in the prophet's familiarity, as displayed in 211 ff., with matters on which he himself represents the priests as the recognised authorities. These reasons, however, are not convincing, especially in view of the fact that Jewish tradition, although it highly honours Haggai, attributing to him and Zechariah and Malachi, with whom he is almost always associated, various important services,[9] does not reckon him a member of the sacerdotal order. On the whole, therefore, it seems safest to ignore the Christian tradition and regard the prophet as a patriotic Jewish layman of unusual zeal for, and therefore, perhaps, unusual acquaintance with, the religion in which he had been born and reared.[10]

The Christian writers above cited agree in teaching that Haggai was born in Babylon. Dorotheus, Epiphanius and others say that he was still a young man when he came to Jerusalem.[11] Augustine, however, had somewhere learned that both Haggai and Zechariah had prophesied in Babylon before they and their countrymen were released from captivity.[12] The Jewish authorities, also, seem to have thought of Haggai as a man of mature, if not advanced, age when he arrived in Palestine. Otherwise they would not have attributed to him the wisdom and influence for which they gave him credit. Ewald and other modern commentators think he may have been among those who had seen the temple of Solomon before its destruction. Cf. 23. If so, he must have been between seventy and eighty years of age when his prophecies were uttered. Perhaps his age explains why his prophetic career was so brief. At any rate, it seems to have been brought to a close shortly after the foundations of the new sanctuary were laid, while Zerubbabel was still governor of Jerusalem.


The book of Haggai consists largely of a series of four comparatively brief prophecies, all dated, the last two on the same day. It is evidently not, in its entirety, from the prophet's own hand; for, both in the statements by which the several prophecies are introduced (11 21, 10, 20) and in the body of the third (212 f.), he is referred to only in the third person. Moreover, the first prophecy is followed by a description of its effect upon those to whom it was addressed (112–15) throughout which he is treated in the same objective manner. There are similar passages in Zechariah; a fact which has led Klostermann to conclude that the book of Haggai and Zc. 1–8 originally belonged to an account of the rebuilding of the temple in the reign of Darius, chronologically arranged and probably edited by Zechariah.[13] This thesis, however, cannot be maintained; for, in the first place, as will be shown in the comments on 115 the point on which Klostermann bases his supposition, that the combined works of the two prophets once had a chronological arrangement, is mistaken, and, second, Budde has made it pretty clear that the narrative portions of Zc. 1–8, in their present form, were not written by the author of the prophecies.[14] In fact, it is possible to go still farther and say that, if Budde is correct in his analysis, Rothstein's less definite form of this hypothesis[15] also becomes untenable, the difference between the narrative portions of the books of Haggai and Zechariah being so marked that they cannot all be attributed to any single author. While, therefore, it is necessary to admit that the book of Haggai is his only in the sense that it contains his extant prophecies, it is equally necessary to insist that it is, and was intended to be, a separate literary production.

The book is so brief that it seems almost ridiculous to suspect its unity. Yet some have not only raised the question, whether all the prophecies it contains are correctly attributed to Haggai, but actually found reasons for answering it in the negative. The most ambitious of these critics is André, who claims (24 ff.) to have shown that 210–19 is an interpolation, being, in fact, a prophecy delivered by an unknown person on the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, not of the second, but of the first, year of the reign of Darius. The following is an outline of his argument for this contention: 1. The passage interrupts the development of the preceding discourse, the conclusion of which is found in vv.21–23. 2. The point of view in this passage is different from that of the rest of the book. 3. This message is addressed to Haggai, not, like the others, to the leaders and the people through him. 4. There are palpable contradictions between it and other portions of the book. 5. The vocabulary of these verses is different from that of the rest of the book. These statements, if they were all correct and relevant, would be conclusive against the genuineness of the passage in question. This, however, is not the case. In fact, in every instance either the allegation or the inference from it is mistaken. Thus, although 221 repeats a clause from v.6, the fact that vv.21 ff. are addressed to Zerubbabel alone makes it a distinct prophecy, which, moreover, could not have been attached immediately to v.9 without producing confusion.[16] The second statement is based on an exaggerated notion of the subtlety of the illustration used in 212 ff.; which, according to André, betrays the priestly legalist. It is really, as will be shown in the comments, a figure that might have occurred to any Jew zealous for his religion in the days of the prophet. The third point touches the style, not of Haggai, but of the editor by whom his prophecies were collected. Moreover, as will be shown, the original reading in 21 was to, not by Haggai, and, when this correction is made, the alleged discrepancy has disappeared. The contradictions to which André refers under his fourth head he finds in 217, 18, on the one hand, compared with 110 f. 15 on the other. For the solution of these difficulties, see the comments on the passages cited. There are, as André, fifthly, asserts, differences of phraseology between 210–19 and the rest of the book, but there is not a case having any significance in which the word or phrase employed cannot be better explained than by calling it a mark of difference in authorship.

There is really no necessity for discussing the thirteen specifications under this head, but perhaps it should be done for the sake of showing how little science is sometimes mixed with criticism. The following are the words and phrases cited, with the reason, when there is one, for the use of each of them in the given connection:

a. The use of היכל, temple, in 215. 18 for the more general term בית, house, of 12. 14 has no critical significance. It is used in a precisely similar connection, and exclusively, four times in Zc. 69–15, and with בית in Zc. 89. b. In 214 יגיע, which means wearisome toil, and, when the instrument is to be expressed, is always followed by כף, palm, as in 111, would not have been general enough; hence the use of מעשׂה ידיהם, work of their hands. c. In 212 oil is called שׁמן, and not, as in 111, יצהר, because it is regarded as a commodity rather than a product of the soil. d. The same explanation applies to the use of יין, wine, for תירושׁ, must. e. The use of מגורה, granary, for the בית, house, home, in 219 is explained by the fact that the author is here thinking of grain in storage, and not, as in 19, on its way from the field or the threshing-floor. f. The word בגד is the proper one for a single garment. Hence it, and not לבושׁ, which generally means clothing, is used in 212, and often elsewhere, even in connection with the verb לבשׁ, clothe, of 16. Cf. Zc. 33. g. In 214 גוי, nation, is used of Israel, because a synonym is needed for עם, people. Cf. Ex. 3313. This is not the case anywhere else in the book. Cf. 12, 12, 13, 14 24. h. If in 214 the writer had had a verb denoting fear, he would probably have used מפני instead of לפני for before, just as he does in 112. i. The omission of על־דרכיכם in 215, 18 is is due to the fact that here the verb has another object. Cf. 15, 7. k. The use of יהוה without צבאות in 214, 17 would have more significance if the last clause of v.17 were undoubtedly genuine and Haggai did not employ the simple name three times (24(bis), 23) outside the passage under consideration. See also 113, an interpolation. l. The omission of his title after the name of the prophet in 213 f. is just what one would expect in a passing reference. Cf. Böhme, ZAW., 1887, 215. Elsewhere the title is used; except in 220, and there, on the testimony of 𝔊, it should be. Cf. 11, 3, 12 21. m. The priests appear in 211 ff., because the question is one that not only the high priest, but any of his associates, ought to be able to answer. In all cases where the high priest is introduced, he, like Zerubbabel, is a representative figure. Cf. 11, 12, 14 22. n. The case of, אל, to, for ביד, by, has already been discussed under point 3, p. 28.

In view of this showing it is not strange that André's hypothesis has met with little favour from biblical scholars.[17]

There is one other extended passage, 220–23, whose genuineness has been questioned by W. Böhme (ZAW., 1887, 215 ff.).

He mentions incidentally the omission of the title after the name of the prophet in v.20., laying the stress of objection upon (1) the use of the construction to (אל) for by (ביד; lit. by the hand of) in the same verse, and (2) the unnecessary repetition in v.21 of a prophecy found in 26b, 7a, which, according to 22. 4, Zerubbabel had already heard. These objections, however, are easily answered. The missing title is found in 𝔊; the construction with to is the one that was originally used in vv.1, 10; and the repetition of v.6b, or rather, v.6bα,—v.7a is not so literally reproduced,—is simply a device for connecting the fortunes of Zerubbabel with the same events for which the prophet had sought to prepare the people. The weakness of Böhme's argument is apparent. This, however, is not all. He has overlooked the fact that Zerubbabel was removed soon after Haggai ceased to prophesy, and that, therefore, his theory, as Marti remarks, implies that this final prophecy was added by a writer who knew that it could not be fulfilled.


The book of Haggai, then, as a whole, may be regarded as a genuine collection of the words of the prophet whose name it bears. It can hardly contain all that he said on any of the four occasions on which he is reported to have spoken, much less all that he said during the months when he was labouring for the restoration of the national sanctuary. The meagreness of the remains of his teachings, and the setting in which they have been preserved, may be explained by supposing that he himself did not commit his discourses to writing, but that a friend or a disciple, who had treasured his most striking or important utterances, soon after his death[18] put them into nearly the shape in which they have been preserved. It is necessary to use some such qualifying term as nearly in any statement with reference to the book, because, although, as has been shown, its unity as a literary production is perfectly defensible, there can be no doubt that, like other parts of the Old Testament, it has suffered more or less in the course of the centuries at the hands of careless or ignorant readers or transcribers. Some of the resulting additions, omissions, and corruptions can easily be detected and remedied. In other cases changes that have taken place reveal themselves only to the trained critic, and by signs that will not always convince the layman, especially if he is interested in a diverse opinion. This, however, is not the place for a further discussion of the subject. It belongs in the exegetical, but more especially in the critical, notes, where the renderings of the great Versions, as well as the readings of the Hebrew manuscripts and editions, will be cited and compared and the conjectures of the leading biblical scholars, past and present, considered. The most that can be done in this connection is to present in tabular form the results reached in the notes for the purpose of indicating the condition of the Hebrew text. In the first column of the following tables are noted the additions that seem to have been made to the book since it was written, in the second the words and phrases, so far as they can be recovered, that appear to have been omitted, and in the third the cases in which the original has been wittingly or unwittingly distorted in the course of transmission.

1, 1.  יום
2.  עת1 בֹא for בָא.
3.  The entire verse.
4.  בתיכם for בתים.
8.  אמר יהוה על after עלו הבאתם for בראתם;
ואכבד for ואכבדה.
10.  עליכם ה before שׁמים. מטל for מטר.
11.  כל before אשׁר. כפים for כפיהם.
12.  פחת יהודה.
אליהם after אלהיהם2.
ועל for ואל.
13.  The entire verse.
15.  בשׁשׁי The transfer of v.b from 21.
2, 1.  ביד for אל.
2.  ל before שׁארית. שׁלתיאל for שׁאלתיאל.
1, 1. day.
2. a time. to come for hath come.
3. The whole verse.
4. your houses for houses.
8. said Yahweh. upon before the mountains. bring for cut;
and I shall
for that I may.
10. over you. art. before heaven. dew for rain.
11. all before that hands for their hands
12. pasha of Judah;
to them
after him.
according to for to before the words.
13. The whole verse.
15. sixth. The transfer of v.b from 21.
2, 1. by for to.
2. all before the rest. Shaltiel for Shealtiel
Additions. Omissions Errors.
2, 5. v.a entire.
6. אחת
ואת־הים ואת־החרבה
7. אמר יהוה צבאות חֶמְדַת for חֲמוּדת
8. כ before לי
9. אמר יהוה צבאות
10. בשׁנת שׁתים לדריוש ביד for אל, in some mss.
11. כה אמר יהוה צבאות
13. ה before שמן.
15. מן־היום הזה ומעלה אל for על.
16. פורה מהיותם for מהיות ימי
17. ואין־אתכם אלי נאם יהוה אתכם for שׁבכם
18. מיום ע״ וא״ לתשׁיעי
19. ועַד for ועֹד; נשׂא for נשׁאו.
20. הנביא after חגי.
21. בן שׁאלתיאל
22. ממלכות2
אישׁ בחרב אחיו
ה before ממלכות1
2, 5. which thing—Egypt.
6. once; yea, the sea
and the dry land.
7. said Yahweh of hosts. desire for treasures.
8. for before mine
9. said Yahweh of hosts.
10. in the second year of Darius. by for to, in some mss.
11. Thus said Yahweh of hosts.
13. art. before oil.
15. from this day forward. to for upon.
16. winepress. since they were for during the days.
17. but ye did not return
to me, saith Yahweh.
18. from the twenty-fourth
of the ninth month.
19. and until for not yet.
20. the prophet after Haggai. has for have borne.
21. son of Shealtiel after Zerubbabel.
22. kingdoms of the before nations;
each by the sword of his fellow.
art. before kingdoms.1


It has long been the fashion to disparage the book of Haggai, and some of the later biblical scholars are almost as severe in their criticism of it as were, in their day, Gesenius and de Wette.

Thus, Marti says of the content of the prophecies: "The temple is to be built and salvation is near. From this fundamental thought, especially when combined with the prophecies of the Second Isaiah, all of Haggai's ideas may easily be derived. It is clear that he does not belong to the original men who were able by interior illumination to comprehend the world and its condition in their judgments, but to the feebler descendants to whom light streams from the words of the earlier prophets." Reuss has a similar opinion of Haggai's literary ability. These are his words: "He generally falls into the most colourless prose; and if he a couple of times, at the end of the second division, and in the fourth, strikes a higher key and rises to poetically flowery language, one sees that this does not flow from a living spring." The mixture of figures into which the critic himself here "falls" rather detracts from his authority in matters of style. Cornill is more appreciative. He says: "The little book … occupies but a modest place in the prophetic literature of Israel. It rises hardly above plain prose, but in its very simplicity and unpretentiousness, because the author speaks from a deeply moved heart in an affecting situation, it has something uncommonly attractive and affecting that should not be overlooked."[19]

The truth is that there is hardly a sufficient basis for a very defmile and decisive opinion with reference to Haggai and his prophecies. In the first place, let it be noted, the book that bears his name, next to Obadiah, is the smallest in the Old Testament; secondly, small as it is, only about two-thirds of it can be attributed to the prophet; and, thirdly, these brief fragments, in passing through the hands of an editor, may have lost more or less of the impress of Haggai's personality. This being the case, criticism should confine itself to the more salient features of the book; for the more minute the analysis the further it is likely to be from the truth.

The central thought of the prophet is too prominent to be overlooked. He was inspired with the irrepressible desire to see the temple rebuilt, and he set himself the task of persuading his people to restore it. In the pursuit of this purpose he used the same means that his predecessors had employed, tracing past misfortunes to neglect of a, to him, plain duty, and thus by implication threatening further calamities if this neglect continued, but promising the most tempting blessings if the opposite course were taken. This, it is true, is a rather narrow program for a prophet, but if, as can doubdess be shown, in Haggai's time the future of the little community in Jerusalem and their religion was involved in the question of the restoration of the national sanctuary, he certainly deserves some credit for seeing this, and more for moving the people to take appropriate action. He was not an Amos or an Isaiah; but must not Amos or Isaiah, in his place, have attempted what he undertook? and would either of them have been more successful?

The style of Haggai is usually regarded as prosaic. Reuss, it will be remembered, pronounces it "colourless." No doubt, it is somewhat tame, if the brilliancy of Isaiah or the polish of the great poet of the Exile be taken as the standard. Yet, Haggai was not without the oriental liking for figures, nor are his prophecies as unrhythmical as they have been represented. In describing his style prominence has sometimes been given to the frequent recurrence of "Thus saith Yahweh of Hosts" and "saith Yahweh," or "Yahweh of Hosts," and it has been interpreted as a sign of "the disappearance of the immediate consciousness of inspiration."[20] But these expressions are not peculiar to Haggai. In fact, when the instances in which they have been interpolated (6) are deducted, it will be found that he does not use them as many times in his whole book as Jeremiah does in the twenty-third chapter of his prophecies.[21] It is even more incorrect to represent the use of interrogation as characteristic of this prophet.[22] There are in all six cases. But in the second chapter of Jeremiah, which contains only thirty-seven verses, there are nineteen, or, proportionately, twice as many. There is one expression that may safely be regarded as peculiar to Haggai, namely, "take thought" (lit., "set your hearts"), which occurs no fewer than five times, and, being found in the third as well as the first prophecy, is a proof that the former is not, as Andre contends, an interpolation. See pp. 28 ff. It seems to be characteristic of Haggai, too, where there is an opportunity, to introduce extended lists of particulars. Such series occur in 16, 11 and 212, 19.

In the first three cases, however, it is possible that the text has been interpolated. In 16 (freely rendered) the arrangement that suggests itself is as follows:

Ye have sown much, but harvested little;
Eaten without satisfaction, drunken without exhilaration, clothed
yourselves without comfort;
And the hireling earned,—for a leaky purse.

In 111 a similar arrangement is possible:

Yea, I summoned a drought upon the land:
Even upon the highlands, and the grain, and the must, and the oil;
And all that the soil produced.

In 212 bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil sounds like another list of specifications, but it precedes instead of following the general term any food. This fact seems unfavourable to the theory of interpolation. Even more so is the case of 219, for here the series appears to be necessary to the expression of the prophet's thought. It is probable, therefore, that he actually wrote:

Is the seed yet in the garner?—
Nor have the vine, and the fig, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree borne:—
From this day will I bless.

If he did, perhaps it is not too much to say that he was apt to express himself in this fashion. Not that he did not sometimes put his thoughts into a more regular form. Take, for example, 110 (omitting the evidently superfluous ץליכם), which might be freely rendered:

Therefore heaven withheld the rain,
and the earth withheld its fruit.

This is a fairly good specimen of Hebrew parallelism. It is interesting as showing that he had caught the measure, as well as adopted some of the ideas, of the Second Isaiah. It is also important, since it furnishes a warrant for correcting some of the irregularities in his prophecies, when other considerations point in the same direction. Applied to 26–9 the metrical principle confirms the following analysis. The words in plain type are accretions:

6. For thus saith Yahweh of Hosts:

Yet once a little while,
And I will shake heaven and earth,
and the sea, and the dry land;
7.yea, I will shake all nations;
And the treasures of all nations shall come,
and I will fill this house with wealth,
saith Yahweh of Hosts:
8. For mine is the silver, and mine the gold,
saith Yahweh of Hosts.
9. Great shall he the wealth of this house,
the future above the past,
saith Yahweh of Hosts:
And in this place I will grant peace,

saith Yahweh of Hosts.[23]

Other illustrations might be cited, but it would probably be difficult, without more or less violence to the text, to reduce the whole book, or even the prophecies, to a poetical form. Still, too much of it is metrical to justify the distinction made by Köhler (31) that, "while the method of presentation preferred by the older prophets was the poetical, that of Haggai, on the other hand, bore an oratorical character." It would be more nearly correct to say that the compiler of the book uses prose, and the prophet himself at first speaks the language of common life, but that, as he proceeds, he adopts to a varying extent poetical forms of thought and expression.

  1. חַגַי
  2. André, 8.
  3. In the earliest references to this feast it is not dated, but from the time of Ezechiel onward it began on the fifteenth of the seventh month. Cf. Ez. 4525; Lv. 2333; EB., art. Feasts, § 11; Nowack, Arch., ii, 180.
  4. De Habacuci Prophetæ Vila alque Ætate, 54 ff.
  5. Maxima Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum, iii, 422 ff. Cf. also Epiphanius, De Vilis Prophetarum, ed. Petavius, ii, 235 ff.
  6. Critica Sacra, viii, Pars, ii, col. 33.
  7. In G, 137 (138) and 145–149 (146–149); in S, 125 f. (126 f.) 145–148 (146–148); in L, 64 (65); in V, 111 (112) 145 f. (146 f.).
  8. André, 98 ff.
  9. They are said to have transmitted the Law to the men of the Great Synagogue, assisted Jonathan ben Uziel in the composition of his Targum on the prophets, introduced the final letters into the Hebrew alphabet, rendered various sage decisions, etc. For numerous citations, cf. André, 13 ff.
  10. Marti claims that 211 ff., so far from indicating that Haggai was a priest, favours the contrary opinion.
  11. For the text of these references, cf. Köhler, 6 f.
  12. Enarrationes in Ps. cxlvii.
  13. GVI., 212 f.
  14. ZAW., 1906, 1 ff.
  15. KJ., 46 f
  16. André claims that vv.20, 21b, as well as v.10, were added to the text when vv.11–19 were inserted.
  17. For a more severe criticism of it, see G. A. Smith on Haggai in The Expositor's Bible.
  18. The fact that all the prophecies are carefully and, so far as can be determined, correctly dated indicates that the book was compiled within a few years at the longest, after they were delivered.
  19. Einl.6, 213.
  20. So Nowack, in the introduction to his commentary on the book of Haggai.
  21. The exact figures are 14 to 21.
  22. André, 115.
  23. In every case the ungenuineness of the word or words omitted can be established without reference to the metre. For details, see the comments.