How to Read Haggai

The Book of Haggai

Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application.  

The book of Haggai tells the story of the returned Israelite exiles and the rebuilding of the Temple. It reveals that our obedience impart of how God works out His purposes in the world. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the story of Haggai, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below as a guide as you watch this video. 

Now that you have an overview of Haggai in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Haggai. Read about how the future Temple will be more glorious than any former Temple in Haggai 2:1–9. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about Haggai 2:1–9.

Haggai 2:1-9 (ESV)

The Coming Glory of the Temple

1 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet,2“Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say,3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?4Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts,5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.6For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.7And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: The latter glory of the Temple shall be greater than the former. 

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Haggai 2:1–9? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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Where an observation determines what the passage says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the passage means. We’ve asked what the passage says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) The latter glory of the Temple shall be greater than the former. (Interpretation) In the coming Kingdom, God’s new Temple will gloriously surpass any of the Temples that have come before it in previous times. Those previous temples were all shadows of the final Temple to come.

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Haggai 2:1–9? How does its message connect with the main message of all of Haggai? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: God creates a perfect, whole, peace-filled world and dwells with His people in the Garden of Eden. After sin breaks God’s fellowship with His people, God meets with His people on a mountain, descending in smoke and fire. God gives instructions for the Tabernacle, His dwelling place with the people as they wander in the wilderness. David dreams of building a Temple for the Lord. David’s Son Solomon builds the Temple, God’s dwelling place. After the Exile, the people rebuild the Temple, which does not live up to its former glory. The Prophets tell of a coming Temple, full of glory, in which all nations will worship and call upon the Lord. Jesus is raised from the dead, is eternally God-dwelling-with-us. The New Jerusalem will have no temple, for God Himself and the Lamb is its Temple, more glorious than any building or representation of God’s presence in the past.

Contextualize: What themes does Haggai 2:1–9 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of the story of Haggai? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the earlier books of the Bible?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: Before Christ, God’s people went to the Temple to worship and meet with God. God’s Presence manifested in the place He had appointed. He came to dwell with His people in the Temple. In Christ, God has come to dwell with us in human form. Now, because of Jesus and His Holy Spirit dwelling in me, I am able to experience God’s Presence anywhere and at anytime. I have full access to God and can freely approach Him in prayer and worship. I can also remind myself of God’s faithfulness to His promises. He is indeed bringing a new Temple, His Son, when His Kingdom has fully come. I can hope in and take joy in that today.

Apply: How does the truth from Haggai 2:1–9 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week? If you're having trouble coming up with an application of this particular passage, how could you apply the main message of Haggai to your life this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps us wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video. 

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Haggai, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Haggai this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice. 

To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.