The addresses were delivered between September and December in the year 520 B.C. The people were suffering from a drought, and in the first address, i.1-11, Haggai interprets this as a penalty for their indifference to religion -- in particular, for their neglect to build the temple. The effect of the appeal was that three weeks afterwards a beginning was made upon the building, i.12-15. The people, however, seem to be discouraged by the scantiness of their resources, and a month afterwards Haggai has to appeal to them again, reminding them that with the silver and the gold, which are His, Jehovah will soon make the new temple more glorious than the old, ii.1-9. Two months later the prophet again reminds them that, as their former unholy indifference had infected all their life with failure, so loyal devotion to the work now would ensure success and blessing, ii.10-19; and on the same day Haggai assures Zerubbabel a unique place in the Messianic kingdom which is soon to be ushered in, ii.20-23.
The appeals of Haggai and Zechariah were successful (Ezra v.1, vi.14), and within four years the temple was rebuilt (Ezra vi.15). It was now the centre of national life, and therefore also of prophetic interest. Haggai was probably not himself a priest, but in so short a prophecy his elaborate allusion to ritual is very significant, ii.11ff. This prophecy, like pre-exilic prophecy, was no doubt conditioned by the historical situation. The allusion to the shaking of the world in ii.7, 22, appears to be a reflection of the insurrections which broke out all over the Persian empire on the accession of Darius to the throne in 521 B.C.; and probably the Jews were encouraged by the general commotion to make a bold bid for the re-establishment of an independent national life. That they cherished the ambition of being once more a political as well as a religious force, seems to be suggested by the frequency with which Haggai links the name of Zerubbabel, of the royal line of Judah, with that of Joshua the high priest; and, in particular, by the extraordinary language applied to him -- in ii.23 he is the elect of Jehovah, His servant and signet. Clearly he is to be king in the Messianic kingdom which is to issue out of the convulsion of the world.
It cannot be safely inferred from ii.3 that Haggai was among those who had seen the temple of Solomon and was therefore a very old man. Simple as are his words, his faith is strong and his hope very bold. Considering the meagre resources of the post-exilic community, it is touching to note the confidence with which he assures the people that Jehovah will bring together the treasures of the world to make His temple glorious.