In 539 BC the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon and promptly issued a decree that allowed the Jewish captives to return to their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem.
The outcome was that a good number of Jews moved out of Babylon and settled in Jerusalem. There they began to establish a new community under the leadership of the governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua (Ezra 1:1-4; 2:1-2). They readily set up the altar and laid the foundation of the temple, but they just as readily lost their enthusiasm when local people began to oppose them. As the opposition increased, so did the Jews’ discouragement, till eventually they stopped building (Ezra 4:1-5,24). After sixteen years of inactivity, God raised up two prophets to arouse the people and get them working on the temple again. One of these prophets was Haggai, the other Zechariah (Ezra 5:1-2; Hag 1:1; Zech 1:1). The year was 520 BC. People claimed that they had not been able to build because of opposition from enemies and hardship from famine. Haggai saw that these were not the reasons at all.
The real reasons were the people’s selfishness and laziness. The problem was spiritual, not political or material. Events soon proved Haggai to be correct; for when the people restarted building and opposition broke out afresh, the Persian king supported the Jews by giving them legal protection and financial assistance (Ezra 5:3; 6:6-12). Contents of the book Haggai’s short book consists of four messages, all delivered within six months. His first message, which rebuked the people for their excuses in not building, brought quick results, and within a little over three weeks the people started building again (1:1-15). His second message encouraged them with the assurance that their work was part of the reconstruction of the Jewish nation, as a result of which the Messiah would come (2:1-9). His third message reminded them of the judgments that result from disobedience, and the blessings that result from obedience (2:10-19). His final message was a brief message of encouragement for Zerubbabel personally (2:20-23).