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CHAPTER XVII

THE BOOK OF HAGGAI

The Book of Haggai contains thirty-eight verses, which have been divided between two chapters.[615] The text is, for the prophets, a comparatively sound one. The Greek version affords a number of corrections, but has also the usual amount of misunderstandings, and, as in the case of other prophets, a few additions to the Hebrew text.[616] These and the variations in the other ancient versions will be noted in the translation below.[617]

The book consists of four sections, each recounting a message from Jehovah to the Jews in Jerusalem in 520 B.C., the second year of Darius (Hystaspis), by the hand of the prophet Haggai.

The first, chap. i., dated the first day of the sixth month, during our September, reproves the Jews for building their own cieled houses, while they say that the time for building Jehovah’s house has not yet come; 226 affirms that this is the reason of their poverty and of a great drought which has afflicted them. A piece of narrative is added recounting how Zerubbabel and Jeshua, the heads of the community, were stirred by this word to lead the people to begin work on the Temple, on the twenty-fourth day of the same month.

The second section, chap. ii. 1–9, contains a message, dated the twenty-first day of the seventh month, during our October, in which the builders are encouraged for their work. Jehovah is about to shake all nations, these shall contribute of their wealth, and the latter glory of the Temple be greater than the former.

The third section, chap. ii. 10–19, contains a word of Jehovah which came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, during our December. It is in the form of a parable based on certain ceremonial laws, according to which the touch of a holy thing does not sanctify so much as the touch of an unholy pollutes. Thus is the people polluted, and thus every work of their hands. Their sacrifices avail nought, and adversity has persisted: small increase of fruits, blasting, mildew and hail. But from this day God will bless.

The fourth section, chap. ii. 20–23, is a second word from the Lord to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. It is for Zerubbabel, and declares that God will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the forces of many of the Gentiles by war. In that day Zerubbabel, the Lord’s elect servant, shall be as a signet to the Lord.

The authenticity of all these four sections was doubted by no one,[618] till ten years ago W. Böhme, 227 besides pointing out some useless repetitions of single words and phrases, cast suspicion on chap. i. 13, and questioned the whole of the fourth section, chap. ii. 20–23.[619] With regard to chap. i. 13, it is indeed curious that Haggai should be described as the messenger of Jehovah; while the message itself, I am with you, seems superfluous here, and if the verse be omitted, ver. 14 runs on naturally to ver. 12.[620] Böhme’s reasons for disputing the authenticity of chap. ii. 20–23 are much less sufficient. He thinks he sees the hand of an editor in the phrase for a second time in ver. 20; notes the omission of the title “prophet”[621] after Haggai’s name, and the difference of the formula the word came to Haggai from that employed in the previous sections, by the hand of Haggai, and the repetition of ver. 6b in ver. 21; and otherwise concludes that the section is an insertion from a later hand. But the formula the word came to Haggai occurs also in ii. 10:[622] the other points are trivial, and while it was most natural for Haggai the contemporary of Zerubbabel to entertain of the latter such hopes as the passage expresses, it is inconceivable that a later writer, who knew how they had not been fulfilled in Zerubbabel, should have invented them.[623]

Recently M. Tony Andrée, privat-docent in the University of Geneva, has issued a large work on Haggai,[624] in which he has sought to prove that the third section of 228 the book, chap. ii. (10) 11–19, is from the hand of another writer than the rest. He admits[625] that in neither form, nor style, nor language is there anything to prove this distinction, and that the ideas of all the sections suit perfectly the condition of the Jews in the time soon after the Return. But he considers that chap. ii. (10) 11–19 interrupts the connection between the sections upon either side of it; that the author is a legalist or casuist, while the author of the other sections is a man whose only ecclesiastical interest is the rebuilding of the Temple; that there are obvious contradictions between chap. ii. (10) 11–19 and the rest of the book; and that there is a difference of vocabulary. Let us consider each of these reasons.

The first, that chap. ii. (10) 11–19 interrupts the connection between the sections on either side of it, is true only in so far as it has a different subject from that which the latter have more or less in common. But the second of the latter, chap. ii. 20–23, treats only of a corollary of the first, chap. ii. 1–9, and that corollary may well have formed the subject of a separate oracle. Besides, as we shall see, chap. ii. 10–19 is a natural development of chap. i.[626] The contradictions alleged by M. Andrée are two. He points out that while chap. i. speaks only of a drought,[627] chap. ii. (10) 11–19 mentions[628] as the plagues on the crops shiddāphôn and yērākôn, generally rendered blasting and mildew in our English Bible, and bārād, or hail; and these he reckons to be plagues due not to drought but to excessive moisture. But shiddāphôn and yērākôn, which are always connected in the Old Testament and are words of doubtful meaning, are not referred to damp in any of the passages in 229 which they occur, but, on the contrary, appear to be the consequences of drought.[629] The other contradiction alleged refers to the ambiguous verse ii. 18, on which we have already seen it difficult to base any conclusion, and which will be treated when we come to it in the course of translation.[630] Finally, the differences in language which M. Andrée cites are largely imaginary, and it is hard to understand how a responsible critic has come to cite, far more to emphasise them, as he has done. We may relegate the discussion of them to a note,[631] and need here only remark that there is among 230 them but one of any significance: while the rest of the book calls the Temple the House or the House of Jehovah (or of Jehovah of Hosts), chap. ii. (10) 11–19 styles it palace, or temple, of Jehovah.[632] On such a difference between two comparatively brief passages it would be unreasonable to decide for a distinction of authorship.

There is, therefore, no reason to disagree with the consensus of all other critics in the integrity of the Book of Haggai. The four sections are either from himself or from a contemporary of his. They probably represent,[633] not the full addresses given by him on the occasions stated, but abstracts or summaries of these. “It is never an easy task to persuade a whole population to make pecuniary sacrifices, or to postpone private to public interests; and the probability is, that in these brief remains of the prophet Haggai we have but one or two specimens of a ceaseless diligence and persistent determination, which upheld and animated the whole people till the work was accomplished.”[634] 231 At the same time it must be noticed that the style of the book is not wholly of the bare, jejune prose which it is sometimes described to be. The passages of Haggai’s own exhortation are in the well-known parallel rhythm of prophetic discourse: see especially chap. i., ver. 6.

The only other matter of Introduction to the prophet Haggai is his name. The precise form[635] is not elsewhere found in the Old Testament; but one of the clans of the tribe of Gad is called Haggi,[636] and the letters H G I occur as the consonants of a name on a Phœnician inscription.[637] Some[638] have taken Haggai to be a contraction of Haggiyah, the name of a Levitical family,[639] but although the final yod of some proper names stands for Jehovah, we cannot certainly conclude that it is so in this case. Others[640] see in Haggai a probable contraction for Hagariah,[641] as Zaccai, the original of Zacchæus, is a contraction of Zechariah.[642] A more general opinion[643] takes the termination as adjectival,[644] and the root to be “hag,” feast or festival.[645] In that case Haggai would mean festal, and it has been supposed that the name would be given to him from his birth on the day of some feast. It is impossible 232 to decide with certainty among these alternatives. M. Andrée,[646] who accepts the meaning festal, ventures the hypothesis that, like “Malachi,” Haggai is a symbolic title given by a later hand to the anonymous writer of the book, because of the coincidence of his various prophecies with solemn festivals.[647] But the name is too often and too naturally introduced into the book to present any analogy to that of “Malachi”; and the hypothesis may be dismissed as improbable and unnatural.

Nothing more is known of Haggai than his name and the facts given in his book. But as with the other prophets whom we have treated, so with this one, Jewish and Christian legends have been very busy. Other functions have been ascribed to him; a sketch of his biography has been invented. According to the Rabbis he was one of the men of the Great Synagogue, and with Zechariah and “Malachi” transmitted to that mythical body the tradition of the older prophets.[648] He was the author of several ceremonial regulations, and with Zechariah and “Malachi” introduced into the alphabet the terminal forms of the five elongated letters.[649] The Christian Fathers narrate that he was of the tribe of Levi,[650] that with Zechariah he prophesied in exile of the Return,[651] and was still young when he arrived in Jerusalem,[652] where he died and was buried. A strange legend, founded on the doubtful 233 verse which styles him the messenger of Jehovah, gave out that Haggai, as well as for similar reasons “Malachi” and John the Baptist, were not men, but angels in human shape.[653] With Zechariah Haggai appears on the titles of Psalms cxxxvii., Psalms cxlv.-cxlviii. in the Septuagint; cxi., cxlv., cxlvi. in the Vulgate; and cxxv., cxxvi. and cxlv.-cxlviii. in the Peshitto.[654] “In the Temple at Jerusalem he was the first who chanted the Hallelujah, ... wherefore we say: Hallelujah, which is the hymn of Haggai and Zechariah.”[655] All these testimonies are, of course, devoid of value.

Finally, the modern inference from chap. ii. 3, that Haggai in his youth had seen the former Temple, had gone into exile, and was now returned a very old man,[656] may be probable, but is not certain. We are quite ignorant of his age at the time the word of Jehovah came to him.

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