The superscription (1:1) locates the date of Haggai's ministry in the second year of the reign of Darius, whose civil authority is recognized throughout the book. Haggai gives no indication of theologically legitimatizing a new earthly kingdom. The shaking of the nations would produce a theocracy with God ruling through his representative, Zerubbabel.
Haggai's sermon begins (v. 2) with the standard messenger formula, “This is what the Lord Almighty says.” This identification of the words as God's is repeated three times in the passage (vv. 3, 5, 7).
The opening statement of the sermon quotes the people concerning the task of building the temple. After the first return in 538 b.c. an abortive attempt had been made to rebuild. Due to the lack of economic resources, it was left unfinished. The people saw the continued economic plight as reason enough for the continued delay. Haggai had a contrasting point of view. The people thought that economics prohibited religious activity, whereas Haggai proclaimed that their economic plight was caused by their lack of religious commitment.
The theological basis of Haggai's message lies in the Deuteronomic expression of the Mosaic covenant. How the nation responded to the demands of God as expressed in the covenant determined God's response to them; obedience brought national peace and prosperity, but disobedience meant economic and political disaster along with disease and pestilence (Dt 28). Haggai applies this theology in vv. 6, 9-10. The people survived, but they never had enough to satisfy their desires. Harvests were inadequate, and their money's value eroded through inflation (v. 6). This was not due to the normal course of affairs, but because of God's direct intervention. He was responsible for the droughts and poor harvests (vv. 9-11).