November 6, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Haggai
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Date: 520 BC
Context: Haggai’s message is to the people who have returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. The Jerusalem to which they returned was not the same Jerusalem they left. Their homes and livelihoods had been destroyed. The temple of the Lord was destroyed and many of the priests had been removed from city, if not executed. When Nebuchadnezzar seized the city, he burned it and made the surrounding land inhospitable. It was no longer the “land of milk and honey,” and the people struggled with their new way of life. There are four messages from the Lord to the Israelites in this book. The first message (1:1-15), rejects the people’s excuses for focusing on their own luxurious houses instead of rebuilding the house of the Lord. Haggai’s second message (2:1-9), provided encouragement to those working at building the temple. They were disheartened that the new temple was not a splendid as the temple Solomon built. The Lord told them that the new temple would be even more splendid than the old. Haggai’s third message (10-19), reminds the Israelites that they cannot be holy through their own works. Building a temple will not make them holy. Only through obedience to the Lord can one become holy. Haggai’s fourth message (20-23), tells of a day when the Lord will bestow His signet on a new ruler that will sit on the throne of David.
World History: Haggai is the second shortest book in the Bible. The message may be brief, but it is similar to on that Jesus preached during His time on earth. Babylon seized Jerusalem and sacked the city, including the temple, in 586 BC. In 539 BC, the Persian ruler Cyrus conquered Babylon. Cyrus granted his captors considerable religious freedom (as opposed to the Babylonians), and it was during the reign of the Persians that the Israelites were allowed to return to their homeland.