Here is Boadt’s introduction to Haggai….
The major event of the first years after the return was the attempt to rebuild the temple. The effort had never gotten beyond laying the foundations when Haggai and Zechariah took up the cause with a series of oracles urging the people to renew their efforts. Haggai is one of the shortest books among the Old Testament prophets—only two chapters, containing four oracles, all dated between August and December of 520 B.C. He addressed his oracles to Zerubbabel, the governor, and to Joshua, the high priest. His message was simple. The land is suffering from drought and hunger, poverty and failure, because the people think only of their own houses and fortunes, and have neglected the house of Yahweh. The land has been defiled and needs to be purified and consecrated by the presence of God in his temple. Until this is done, there would be no blessing in the new community. In this message Hagggai stands in the tradition of Ezekiel, who foresaw a day coming when the land would be purified, a new temple would rise up and all the tribes would live in peace and order under the leadership of a prince and high priest (Ez 40-48).
The prophet combines a political program of rebuilding the temple with the demand for a people who will strive for holiness in their personal actions. For Haggai, as for Ezekiel and the entire line of prophetic voices back to Amos, a temple without individual fidelity will have no power to bring God’s blessing on Israel. His prophecy had an effect:
And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they began to work on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month (Hg 1:14-15).
But this first energy was not enough. The work slowed down and Haggai delivered three more warnings in the coming months. He encouraged the people’s morale by pointing to Zerubbabel as God’s appointed ruler and the one who would restore the family of David to the throne of Israel. After all, Zerubbabel was a grandson of Jehoiachin, the last of the Davidic kings (2 Kgs 24:8-17; 1 Chr 3:17), and the rightful successor to the throne of Judah. Besides, the Persian empire had been in turmoil for some years now, ever since Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, had committed suicide after a palace revolt had broken out. A Persian general, Darius, gradually gained power, but it took years of war against other hopeful leaders. Haggai’s enthusiastic nationalism and hope for independence led him to extol Zerubbabel as the person God would use to bring blessing to the land:
On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, my servant, and wear you like a signet ring on my finger, says the Lord; for I have chosen you, says the Lord (Hg 2:23).
This kind of language was as good as treason in the eyes of a Persian king, and may have led to the removal of Zerubbabel from office. In any case, nothing ever came of the hopes of Haggai, and instead of a new Davidic Messiah, the high priest was given more and more authority by the Persian authorities in the years ahead. But if Haggai was wrong on that point, he did see the temple finished and dedicated within four years.
While the book of Haggai reminds us that not all our dreams and goals in this life will be fulfilled, the prophet also reminds us that we are chosen by God and special to him, just as we are reminded of this by other Scriptures. (See Ephesians 1:3 ff. and 1 Peter 2:9.) Being loved by God is worth more than all the accomplishments in the world.