The prophet Haggai, who returned from Babylon to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel and Joshua, delivered his first prophecy in the second year of Darius, 520 B.C.—the year when he suddenly appeared on the scene and just as suddenly disappeared. Haggai’s consuming passion was to inspire the returned exiles in Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple which Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed nearly 70 years earlier (586 B.C.) His prophecies reflect the wretched conditions in which the Jews were still living although 17 years had passed since they arrived in Jerusalem from Babylon in 537 B.C.
In 537 B.C. Cyrus permitted Jewish exiles to return to Palestine under Zerubbabel and Joshua (Ezra 1:2; 2:2). The former was to be governor of Judah and the latter the high priest. This seemingly insignificant event was in reality one that has shaped the destinies of the world.
Enthusiastic hopes were soon shattered. An altar of burnt offerings was set up in Jerusalem in 537 B.C. (Ezra 3:2 f.), and in 536 B.C. the Temple site was cleared of rubble (Ezra 3:8), and new foundations were laid (Ezra 3:10); but then the work was held up for 16 years, 536–520 B.C. (Ezra 4:5, 24). This delay has been variously explained. (1) In Babylon the exiles had been nourished on spiritual ideals and sentimental ideas about their far-off native land which the stern realities of a ruined Jerusalem falsified and destroyed. (2) For 50 years the exiles had lived in Babylon without altar or Temple, and they may have felt that delay in rebuilding the Temple would not materially affect their religious life. (3) A series of disasters also contributed to the delay: (a) There was the activity of the Samaritans who had been irked by the Jews’ refusal of their offer of assistance ...1
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