August 29, 520 BC
September 21, 520 BC
October 17, 520 BC
December 18, 520 BC
A unique feature of the prophecy of Haggai, the second shortest book in the Old Testament is that it is precisely dated, not just generally as “during the reign” of a certain king, or even just the year, but five prophecies are declared on four very specific dates. These prophecies when the word of the LORD came to Haggai are all given in less than four months.
Haggai was a contemporary of the prophet Zechariah, the governor Zerubbabel and the high priest, Joshua. It was when the exiles to Babylon from 70 years earlier were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. The book of Ezra provides the history of this time.
After completing the foundation of the temple, celebrated in the record of Ezra 3:8-11, the work began to stall out due to multiple factors. Initial enthusiasm was dampened by the response of the older people who compared it with Solomon’s temple, seeing that even the foundation was going to mean a far less glorious building. Additionally, there was outside opposition from those who accused the Jews of planning a rebellion (Ezra 4). Thus, the work was suspended and nothing done for fourteen years. Even after political opposition was formally resolved, the project did not proceed.
Haggai’s emphasis is that the main problem was not outside opposition, but mixed up priorities, elevating personal interests for their own homes above the spiritual priority of building the LORD’s house.
1:2-4 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
1:5-10 – Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
The result was obedience to God’s command and resumption of the work. The temple was completed in 516 BC.*
Where is the Gospel in Haggai? Two passage call for our attention, one tentative, the other more definitive.
2:7 – I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD Almighty.
Dating back to ancient rabbis, many have understood the desired of all nations to be the Messiah. Charles Wesley enshrined this understanding in the fourth verse of his great carol, Come, desire of nations, come, fix in us thy humble home;
Favoring this as a Messianic reference is the reference to “glory” used prominently in messianic passages such as Isaiah 40:5 and 60:1, plus the words of Simeon from Luke 2:32, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people, Israel. **
Further, the word “desired” can refer to an individual with the meaning, “highly esteemed,” Daniel 9:23, and possibly Malachi 3:1, “the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.” **
Countering this is the fact that “desired” is plural, not singular and probably refers not to a desired person, but treasures of silver and gold.****
The next reference to the Gospel is much more definitive as Zerubbabel the governor joins King David as a figurative reference to the Messiah, the second David and the second Zerubbabel, the Messiah, Jesus. Look at this.
Haggai 2:20-23 – The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.
“‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
that day points to a time beyond Zerubbabel. my servant is a title used of King David and of the “suffering servant” in Isaiah, a Messianic reference. David and Zerubbabel are both in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:6, 12, 13), who fulfills what these earlier figures could only be a foretaste. It is Jesus who will shake the heavens and the earth… overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of foreign kingdoms…
Zerubbabel was declared to be my servant… and I will make you like my signet ring, the promise of a future king who will bring about what all other kings have failed to accomplish.
This the Good News, the culmination of the Gospel, that Jesus, the Messiah, who died on the cross for our sins, was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven, will come back as the King to establish justice and righteousness on the earth. Jesus is “my servant,” “your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:27, 30)
*While this was the beginnings for the temple of Jesus’ time on earth, it apparently went through several remodels over 500 years. But the primary remodel was actually a massive reconstruction in what became known as Herod’s Temple, a temple that some said was even more glorious than Solomon’s, completed about 15 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In terms of size it was twice the size of Solomon’s temple, bringing the remark of the disciples, “Look Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” Jesus response, “Not one stone will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.” Mark 13:1, 2 The only thing that remains is a portion of the western wall (known as the Wailing Wall), but that is enough to see how massive these stones were and the wonder of ancient building construction.
**Robert Alden in the commentary on Haggai in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, volume 7, page 586
***NIV Study Bible note
**** D. A. Carson, For the Love of God, volume two, December 13