The prophet Aggaeus (aka. Haggai)

Tomorrow will be the memorial day of the Old Testament prophet Aggaeus, or Haggai, and it’s about time I put up a tiny summary of his prophecy, one of those of the so-called minor prophets, whose work is contrasted with that of the major prophets: Isaias, Jeremias, Daniel, and Ezechiel. Here is Aggaeus’ entry in the Roman martyrology for tomorrow:

“Commemoration of Saint Aggaeus the prophet, who in the time of Zorobabel governor of Juda, warned the people to rebuild the house of the Lord, into which would enter the treasure of all the nations.”

Roman martyrology, December the 16th

Aggaeus dealt with the aftermath of the return of a few Jewish exiles to Jerusalem and Juda, where they found Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in utter ruin. He was the first of the prophets of the eternal God who addressed the small band of Judaites (now called Jews) who had returned, and he advised them to rebuild the Holy City and the Temple. In this rather short remnant of his prophecies to the successor of David, Zorobbabel son of Salathiel, and to the Sadocite high-priest Josue son of Josedec, Aggaeus urges that the Temple be rebuilt. This would be the second Temple of Jerusalem (the first being Solomon’s, properly levelled by the Chaldeans seventy years previously), which would be later greatly enlarged and endowed by the Idumaean King Herod the Great, only to itself be destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. But here’s the beginning of that building, and it must be built! Or there is no blessing

“‘Listen,’ the Lord said to them through the prophet Aggaeus, ‘is it not too early yet for you to have roofs over your heads, and My Temple in ruins?’ Think well on it, says the Lord of hosts; here is much sown, and little reaped, nor eating brings you a full belly, nor wine a merry heart; such clothes you wear as leave you shivering, such wages win as leak out at purse’s bottom! Think well on it, says the Lord of hosts; up to the hill-side with you, fetch timber and restore My Temple, if content Me you will, the Lord says, if honour Me you will! So much attempted, so little attained; store you brought into your houses withered at My breath; would you know the reason for it? says the Lord of hosts. Because to your own houses you run helter-skelter, and My Temple in ruins!”

Aggaeus, 1: 3-9

The sad reality of this second Temple, now built at much less expense than the first and by so few people, and with no note about any of them being skilled artisans and craftsmen, was that their effort was nothing to compare with the glory of Solomon’s Temple. Herod’s time was still centuries in the coming and the people would have to make do with a poor homage to the God of Heaven. Commiserations arrive through the prophet:

“To Zorobabel, and Josue, and all the people with them His word was: ‘Tell me, those of you who saw this house in its former brightness, what make you of it now? It is no better in your eyes than a very nothing. Take heart, Zorobabel; Josue, son of Josedec, take heart! And you, too, people of the land, the Lord of hosts bids you put heart into the work; is not He, the Lord of hosts, at your side?… the promise I gave when you escaped from Egypt; My own spirit shall be among you, do not be afraid.’ ‘A little while now,’ the Lord of hosts says, ‘and I mean to set heaven and earth, sea and dry land rocking; stirred all the nations shall be, hither shall come the prize the whole world treasures, and I will fill this Temple with the brightness of My presence,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Silver or gold, what matters it?’ the Lord of hosts says. ‘Both are mine! Bright this new Temple shall be,’ He tells you, ‘as never the first was; here,’ He tells you, ‘His blessing shall rest.'”

Aggaeus, 2: 3-10

Encouragement, indeed! This poor little building will nevertheless see a great thing. There is a the little Messianic prophecy hidden in the line that says that, when the nations (the Gentiles) have been stirred, the Prize that the whole world treasures, basically the Expected of the Nations, will arrive at the Temple Himself and the Temple will suddenly be filled with the brightness of the Presence of God. This text may be familiar from the liturgy of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, on the second day of February. The people must have noted woefully that their poor effort did not have the silver and gold that their elders remembered of the Temple that had been destroyed seventy years previously. But God says through Aggaeus that gold and silver matters nothing to Him, for His blessing is of far greater value than those.

There’s little else worth noting in this tiny Book of Haggai, except perhaps that this Zorobabel son of Salathiel is the last recorded descendant of King David that we have in the Old Testament. The rest of the descent is provided by the Apostle S. Matthew at the top of his Gospel. Note that Jechonias is another name for Joachin son of Joachim, who had been imprisoned in Babylon about ten years before Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 BC.

“And after the removal to Babylon, Jechonias was the father of Salathiel, Salathiel of Zorobabel, Zorobabel of Abiud, Abiud of Eliacim, Eliacim of Azor, Azor of Sadoc, Sadoc of Achim, Achim of Eliud, Eliud of Eleazar, Eleazar of Mathan, Mathan of Jacob, and Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary; it was of her that Jesus was born, Who is called Christ.”

Gospel of S. Matthew, 1: 12-16

To this Zorobabel Aggaeus gives God’s solemn blessing:

“…royal thrones shall be overturned, and the power of Gentile kingdoms brought to nothing; overthrown they lie, chariot and charioteer, down come horse and rider, friend turning his sword against friend; but thou, son of Salathiel, says the Lord of hosts, thou, Zorobabel, art My servant still; on that day I will take thee to My side, keep thee there, close as signet-ring; it is a divine choice that has fallen on thee, says the Lord of hosts.”

Aggaeus, 2: 23-24
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