Haggai spoke at a time when the identity of the postexilic community was in jeopardy. The people were a part of a vast empire and could have followed the path of others who lost their own distinctiveness and drifted into the forgotten pages of history. God had something better for them. The way out of the crushing poverty that sapped their communal life was, not the neglect of their religious duties, but the performance of them. The people who had placed their own economic security and well-being ahead of their obligations to Yahweh had to reassess and change their values.
The diagnosis of and the cure for the community's economic problems as given by Haggai arise out of the Deuteronomic concept of covenantal obligations. If the community sought God in obedience and trust, then peace and prosperity would be given to it. The austere conditions faced by the community was a sign that the people had not obeyed God. His curse and not his blessings rested upon them.
The temple was the symbol of the presence of God dwelling among the people. Even though Israel knew that the whole of creation was not vast enough to hold him (2Ch 6:18), the temple remained the abode of Yahweh. Thus, as the people gave themselves to the work of rebuilding the temple, Haggai's message to them was “‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord” (1:13).
Previously the people existed as an unholy nation (2:10-19), suffering the economic curses of the covenant. Obedience, the concrete expression of faith and trust in God, brought a reversal of their situation. God came among them and made them a holy people again, a right candidate for the blessings of the covenant. Those blessings included not only the acceptance of the worship of the people and the promise of renewed economic prosperity, but also the reestablishment of legitimate political leadership in the person of Zerubbabel (2:20-23).
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