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Haggai was a prophet in Jerusalem where he addressed the Jews who had returned from Babylonian captivity under the decree of Cyrus in about 537 B.C. With their return, they were able to begin rebuilding their temple that the Babylonians had destroyed. At first the Jews were very eager about this opportunity, but the difficulty and cost of the task, the conflict of their enemies, and the lack of support from the kings who followed Cyrus discouraged them. Thus, they stopped work on the temple, and the hiatus lasted for the next sixteen years.
In 530 B.C. Haggai encouraged the Jews to renew their efforts to rebuild the temple and make it a priority despite their difficulties, so that they could receive the blessings promised by the Lord. He reminded them that they continued to struggle to feed their families, keep their homes, and have clothes enough to keep themselves warm. The populace had difficulty donating their efforts to build the temple, because they were struggling all the hours of the day to make ends meet. Through Haggai, the Lord told them the land was cursed for their sakes, that if they would simply put the kingdom of God first, and get to the work of building the temple, the land would bear fruit with less effort. This same example applies to us today, concerning the principle of tithing.
Haggai gave an exact date for each part of his book. The months were called by different names in the Old Testament but have been changed to current names to aid in understanding. Haggai 1:1-15 took place on August 29 520 B.C.; Haggai 2:1-9 took place on October 17 520 B.C.; and Haggai 2:20-23 took place on December 18 520 B.C.