§ 4. THE THOUGHT AND STYLE OF HAGGAI.
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."
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
- Einl.6, 213.