It is estimated that the book of Haggai was authored in the year 520 B.C. The author of the book was motivated to challenge God’s people in respect to their priorities. Haggai called upon the people of God to give Him glory and worship Him (Wolf, 1976, p 11). This was to be achieved through the construction of a temple for God despite the local and official resistance. Haggai was determined to see the temple constructed and he rallied people to continue with the maiden mission. He called upon the people to refrain from the sinful way of life and have trust in God’s abilities (Merrill, 2003, p 37). This paper shall provide an analysis of the book of Haggai and the literary devices that have been used in the text.
The book of Haggai was named after the person who is believed to have written it. Haggai is considered as one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. He is also said to have been a leading figure of the post-exile era. This book is among the group of books often referred to as the Books of the Twelve (Chisholm, 2002, p 81). The date when this book was written is widely accepted among many individuals without controversy. Notably, the existence of Haggai is well documented in the book of Ezra. The book of Ezra is often believed especially due to its historical accuracy (Wolf, 1976, p 98). As to Haggai, his main objective was to oversee the restoration of the temple and the re-establishment of God’s worship (Wolf, 1976, p 9). The setting of the book is Jerusalem during the 2nd year Darius Hystaspes of Persia. This was the time about eighteen years after the Israelites had returned from Exile in Babylon (Bright, 1959, p 13).
The Book of Haggai is essentially made up of collections of addresses by Haggai to his different audiences. Therefore, the book has little historical or narrative information. Nonetheless, the author of the book often refers to the various historical aspects that related to his mission. He also recounts the responses of the people regarding his appeals (Wood, 1979, p 31). Therefore, it can be speculated that he was among other individuals who had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon (Dyer and Merrill, 2001, p. 47). The other notable individual who had returned from Babylon was prophet Zachariah. This was after King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. After returning, Haggai and Zachariah embarked on their prophetic missions. This was eighteen years after they had returned from exile (Longman and Dillard, 2006, p 75).
Haggai was incensed by the people’s indolence and indifference. This is because the people had worked hard to rebuild their institutions and lives. However, they had left the issue of building the temple of the Lord and other matters unaddressed. Also, the celebrations and fervor that characterized the return of the Israelites from exile degenerated into spiritual apathy and self-serving. Haggai rebuked his people for their unwarranted behaviors and actions (Gaebelein, 1970, p 18). He claimed that the natural and physical disasters that were witnessed in the society were a testimony of God’s anger. He noted that people had to return to God in an effort to avert the agricultural and economic troubles that were being experienced (Kessler, 2002, p 17). He argued that the people had to begin the building to completion of the temple of God. This was in an effort to enable the rains fall and increase the productivity of the land (Parker and Dubberstein, 1956, p 17).
Haggai’s message was well received and accepted by the people of Israel. The prophet assured them that God had not abandoned them similar to the case in the past during the migration from Egypt. The old generation was consumed by the nostalgic tendencies. They could not find any comparison of the temple with the Great temple of Solomon (Bleek, Friedrich, Johannes Friedrich Bleek, Kamphausen, and Venables, 1869, p 49). Haggai told the people that the temple being constructed was of great importance. He asserted that the glory that was going to be witnessed in the new temple was going to be more than that of the temple of Solomon (Pusey, 1950, p 67). It is noted that:
Gold, silver and other symbols of material prosperity that decorated the first temple would pale into insignificance compared to the shalom of the Lord that would fill this second temple, one that itself was only preparatory to the great eschatological temple in which the Lord Himself will dwell (Merrill, Rooker & Grisanti, 2011, pp 480-481).
Notably, the book of Haggai can be singled out as a prophetic book that was in pursuit of one controlling theme. The main theme was the importance of the temple of the Lord and the need for people to get at the task of rebuilding the temple as a symbol of the Lord’s immediate presence and His promise to be their God and live among them for years to come (Verhoef, 1987, p 16). This message was critical to the Israelites who had lived in exile. This is because the monarchy had ceased to exist coupled with the destruction of Jerusalem, which served as the headquarters. In this respect, the previous kingdom promises by God that had been made in the Davidic covenant had become null and void. Therefore, the construction of the church was critical as it brought new hope of the presence of God among the Israelites (Merrill, Rooker & Grisanti, 2011, p 481).
God had entered into a covenant with the Jews, and this is well documented in the book of Deuteronomy. Here, God had promised that He would be visiting His people at the place He had chosen, which was Jerusalem. This is the place that was chosen by David and Solomon who ruled over Israel in the previous years (Westermann, 1991, p 37). The association of the temple and the monarchy as established by King David was important as a theological datum. The construction of the new temple was done at a similar place as the previous one. This was critical as it assured the people of the renascence of the Davidic line, and it eventuated in a messianic figure who would rule Israel and the world at large (Merrill, Rooker & Grisanti, 2011, p 481).
Literary devices in the Book of Haggai
Literary devices can be described as features of literature that are used in the expression of ideas. These aspects have to be universal so as to be understood by the intended audience. Notably, the literary devices are also referred to as the figures of speech. These aspects are common, and they are often used in writing. They are composed of two categories including literary elements or techniques. The literary elements are significantly common in various literature works. This include the plot, theme, and setting among other aspects of a literal work. On the contrary, the literature elements in most instances are used in the expression of artistic meaning (Hall, 1990, p 2).
In the book of Haggai, it can be noted that literary devices have been employed. However, these devices are not commonly used in the text. Haggai’s overall style can be described as parenetic. In this respect, Haggai uses sermonic or hortatory style as he is concerned with the motivation of his people towards the achievement of various goals. The goals that Haggai aspired to achieve included the reconstruction of the temple and the restoration of the Jews as the people of God. In most instances, Haggai’s messages are candidly prosaic. However, on some occasions, he adopts the use of poetic-like cadences in the expression of the subject matter that occupied his mind and heart (Merrill, Rooker & Grisanti, 2011, p 481).
The structure of the book follows the chronological data that mark various phases of the prophet’s ministry. In this case, there are various divisions of the book of Haggai (Longman, Ryken and Wilhoit, 2005, p. 33). The book is essentially divided into four main categories. These include the rebuilding of the temple (1: 1-15); the glory to come (2: 1-9); the promised blessing (2: 10-19) and Zerubbabel the chosen one (2: 20-23). The first category of the book is in two parts including the command and the response (Merrill, Rooker & Grisanti, 2011, p 481).
The other aspect of literary device in the book of Haggai can be said to be foreshadowing. This is because prophet Haggai told the people that they needed to reconstruct the temple to avoid angering God and thus avoid the adversaries that they were experiencing. The plot of the book is given as Jerusalem after they were released from exile. The setting of the book has been given as the year 520 B.C., and it covers the experiences of the Israelites at that time. This was the post-exilic era after the Jews were released from captivity. Haggai is the protagonist in the text given his role of ensuring that the rebuilding of the temple was completed (Nogalski, 1993, p 221).
In the book of Haggai Chapter one and verses nine to eleven, chiasm as a literary device can be observed. This is not a common literary device in the modern literature as it is associated with ancient works. This is where there a correspondence among the parallel lines of a text as seen in the verses quoted. Another literary device observed in the book of Haggai is the use of antithesis. This can be observed in the book of Haggai Chapter one verse six. Here, Haggai talks of earning remunerations only to place them in a purse that has holes. There is also rhyme which can be noted in the book of Haggai. For instance, in Chapter one verse ten of the book, there is ‘al-ken, ‘alekem. Also, in the second Chapter verse six, there is ‘ahat, and me’at. These are some of the small elements of rhyme that can be noted in the book (Nogalski, 1993, p 224).
It can be noted that the book of Haggai did not have elaborate literary devices that were used. Nonetheless, the text had some figure of speech that has been identified in this paper. This book is regarded as the second shortest among those in the Old Testament. The dominant style that was adopted in this book is the parenetic style as Haggai tried to motivate his people in taking various sources of action.
Bleek, Friedrich, Johannes Friedrich Bleek, Adolf Kamphausen, and Edmund Venables. 1869. An introduction to the Old Testament. London: Bell and Daldy, pp 42-59
Bright, John. 1959. A History of Israel. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, pp 12-32
Chisholm, Robert B., Jr. 2002. Handbook on the Prophets. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, pp 76-95.
Dyer, Charles H., and Eugene H. Merrill. 2001. The Old Testament Explorer. Nashville: Word Publishing, pp. 43-65.
Gaebelein, Frank E. 1970. Four Minor Prophets (Obadiah, Jonah, Habakkuk, and Haggai): Their Message for Today. Chicago: Moody Press, pp. 17-34.
Hall, Susan. 1990. Using picture storybooks to teach literary devices: recommended books for children and young adults. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, pp 2-5
Kessler, John. 2002. The book of Haggai: prophecy and society in early Persian Yehud. Leiden [u.a.]: Brill, pp 5-20.
Longman, Tremper, Leland Ryken, and Jim Wilhoit. 2005. Dictionary of biblical imagery. Downers Grove, Ill. [u.a.]: InterVarsity Press, pp 10-39.
Longman, Tremper, III and Raymond B. Dillard. 2006. An Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, pp 72-83.
Merrill, Eugene H. 2003. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: an exegetical commentary. [Spokane, Wash.]: Biblical Studies Press, pp. 25-54.
Merrill, Eugene H., Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti. 2011. The world and the Word: an introduction to the Old Testament. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Academic. pp 478-182.
Nogalski, James. 1993. Literary precursors to the Book of the Twelve. Berlin: de Gruyter, pp 217-230.
Parker, Richard A., and Waldo H. Dubberstein. 1956. Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.-A.D. 75. Providence, R.I.: Brown University, pp 21-34
Pusey, Edward B. 1950. The Minor Prophets: A Commentary, Explanatory and Practical. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, pp 66-72
Verhoef, Pieter A. 1987. The Books of Haggai and Malachi. New International Commentary on the Old Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., pp 13-21
Westermann, Claus. 1991. Prophetic Oracles of Salvation in the Old Testament. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, pp. 23-41.
Wolf, Herbert. 1976. Haggai and Malachi: Everyman’s Bible Commentary series. Chicago: Moody Press, pp 11-19.
Wolf, Herbert. 1976. Haggai and Malachi: rededication and renewal. Chicago: Moody Press, pp 7-52.
Wolf, Herbert. 1976. “The Desire of All Nations in Haggai 2:7: Messianic or Not?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 19: 97-102
Wood, Leon J. 1979. The Prophets of Israel. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, pp 18-35.
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