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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Haggai 2

 

 

Verse 1

The last three of Haggai's four messages are found in this second chapter (Haggai 2:1-9; Haggai 2:10-19; and Haggai 2:20-13). In the first and the last of these, one finds two prophecies of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE SECOND MESSAGE (Haggai 2:1-9)

Haggai 2:1

"In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of Jehovah by Haggai the prophet, saying."

The significance of this dating lies in the fact of its having been a little less than a month since the work on rebuilding the Temple had commenced. "This seventh month was Teshri, the equivalent of our October/November."[1]


Verse 2

"Speak now to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the High Priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying, Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes as nothing?"

"Who is left among you that saw this house ... ?" There would hardly have been any point in a question framed just like this, if indeed there were none who could remember the former temple of Solomon. As Barnes said, "This implies that there were those among them who had seen the first house in its glory, yet but few."[2] The speculation that Haggai himself might have been among them is valid enough, but unprovable, as noted in our introduction.

Speaking of the glory of that first Temple, it must indeed have been a magnificent splendor.

"Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold: and he drew chains of gold across the oracle; and he overlaid it with gold. And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until all the house was finished: also the whole altar that belonged to the oracle he overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:21,22)."

Some have estimated the cost of Solomon's Temple somewhere between three and five billion dollars!

"This house ..." Haggai did not view the efforts of his generation as the construction of a new Temple, but as the rebuilding of the old one. As Hailey noted, "The Lord never had but one house in Jerusalem." In an accommodative sense, that was "the Lord's house," whether the one built by Solomon, rebuilt by Zerubbabel, or renovated by Herod the Great. It should always be borne in mind, however, that the only genuine Temple the Lord ever had is the Church of Jesus Christ our Lord.

"Is it not in your eyes as nothing ...?" The inferiority of the new edifice did not derive so much from the lateral dimensions of it, because Cyrus had ordered that the new Temple should even exceed the old one in size. "If the injunction of Cyrus had been heeded, the dimensions of the new temple would have exceeded those of the old",[3] but there was no way, really that Haggai and Zerubbabel, with the limited resources available, could have strictly adhered to any such guidelines. Even so, "the proportions were not greatly inferior to those of the first temple."[4] The chief physical shortcoming, it appears, would have been in the height of the building. Whereas Solomon's temple stood 120 cubits in height, that of Zerubbabel was only 60 cubits, according to Josephus.[5] However, it was not merely the lesser height and volume of the new edifice that attested its inferiority, but the lack of all the extravagant adornment which had distinguished the first. "Six hundred talents of gold ($10,000,000.00) were used in overlaying the Holy of Holies alone."[6] Such monies were not available to Zerubbabel.


Verse 4

"Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith Jehovah; and be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozodak, the High Priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith Jehovah, and work: for I am with you, saith Jehovah of hosts."

The only "glory" that mattered, and the only glory that had any permanent value was that of God Himself. When God was with his people, they were indeed glorified, and all of the alleged inferiority of the new temple would be nullified and compensated for by the presence of the Lord himself who was moving toward the accomplishment of his eternal purpose through the instrumentality of the "once chosen" people in bringing forth the Messiah into the world.

God's love and tenderness for his people was unbounded. The necessity of punishing them and removing them from the land which they had forfeited by disobedience was an occasion for heartbreak, even on the part of God Himself. Therefore, when the remnant was restored to the land of Canaan, and after they had been working only about a month, the Lord provided the strong assurances of this promise that he was "with" them.

Any strict execution of the justice of God would apparently have required all of the Jewish Canaanites to be destroyed in the same manner as the original Canaanites. Surely, Jewry deserved no better treatment than that which God had meted out to Sodom and Gomorrah, for the prophet Ezekiel flatly declared (Ezekiel 16) that both the northern and the southern Israel were "worse" than Sodom and Gomorrah. However, there were strong impediments to such an execution. The continuity of the prophecies of the Messiah, reaching all the way back to Genesis 3:15 demanded the continuity of Israel. God had promised the Messiah "through" them. His prophets had foretold the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. Any execution of the deserved penalty upon the old Israel would have checkmated God's purpose in the far more important matter of delivering the Messiah to mankind. Any true understanding of God's unwavering and continued mercies to Israel must take such things into account. Also, such mercies to the old Israel were typical of similar mercies to Christ's church, the New Israel of God.

Also, God's being with the old Israel must be considered as a type and symbol of his being with his church throughout the ages. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).


Verse 5

"According to the word which I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, and my Spirit abode among you: fear ye not."

The ancient covenant that God made with Abraham, promising to bless "all the people of the earth" through his "seed" (singular, which is Christ), will yet be honored by the Father. True, there had been a gross misunderstanding on secular Israel's part about what God's blessing meant, most of them interpreting it to mean that God would help them subdue all earthly enemies and incorporate the defeated nations into Israel's "godless state" or "kingdom," which was a concept foreign to God altogether. That kind of a kingdom was their idea, not God's; and, as a consequence, they arrogantly forsook their true religion, rebelled against God, forsook his holy law, and became as reprobate as the heathen; whereupon God destroyed their beloved worldly kingdoms which the people had come to idolize. Their prophets warned them, but to no avail. Amos declared:

"Behold, the eyes of the Lord Jehovah are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; save that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith Jehovah (Amos 9:8). Of course, that is exactly what happened!"

In this verse is the promise that God meant all he ever said. He will yet bless the true Israel (the spiritual seed of Abraham), making them a blessing to all the earth. The fulfillment of that promise would yet come, but not in the way fleshly Israel imagined. The very next verse would point to the true method of its accomplishment.


Verse 6

"For thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations; and the precious things of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith Jehovah of hosts."

"I will shake the heavens ... earth ... sea ... and dry land ..." We hold these words to be unequivocally a reference to the final Judgment that shall close the age of probation for the human race. Some have interpreted the passage to mean that God would topple powers, governments, institutions, and social systems; but that is what he promised to do in Haggai 2:7 (the very next verse), where he declared, "And I will shake all nations!" Two very different events are in view. The first is the final advent of Christ in the final judgment. The second, "the shaking of all nations" is the kind of upheaval among governments and societies that some suppose is meant by the first series of expressions. This is a most important distinction. It should be observed that in the first event prophesied here, "the heavens" also are to be shaken. One wonders what "earthly powers" could be meant by that! This is mentioned first and is the principal feature of the whole passage, as indicated by the quotation and emphasis upon it by the inspired writer of Hebrews who wrote:

"Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but the heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain (Hebrews 12:26,27)."

Thus, the inspired New Testament confirms our understanding of this passage in Haggai as a reference to eternal judgment and the cosmic disturbances that shall mark the onset of that event. F. F. Bruce also received this interpretation of it:

"When, in accordance with the divine promise, this cosmic convulsion takes place, when (in Dryden's words)

The last and dreadful hour

This crumbling pageant shall devour - the whole material universe will be shaken to pieces, and the only things to survive will be those that are unshakable."[7]SIZE>

"Yet once more ..." raises the question of what was the first occasion of God's shaking the earth and the heavens, etc.? Keil construed this as a reference to Sinai and the earthquake that marked the giving of the Law to Moses. "It is a reference to the shaking of the world at the descent of Jehovah upon Sinai to establish the giving of the covenant to Israel."[8] This is quite obviously the same construction that the author of Hebrews placed upon the passage. Note also the deduction in Hebrews to the effect that the second "shaking" is to be infinitely more violent than the first, even to the extent of removing the material things that are shaken. Keil also agreed fully with this:

"The approaching shaking of the world will be much more violent; it will affect the heaven and the earth in all their parts, the sea and the solid ground, and also the nations. The visible creation of the whole world will be altered."[9]

"In a little while ..." These words are a problem for some. Does not this indicate that all of Haggai's prophecy is to take place at some near date in the future from the time he wrote? No indeed. The reference is to the manner of God's looking upon "time." An identical expression was used in Revelation 6:11 to indicate the total period of human probation. The prophecy of Revelation further reveals that from the moment of Satan's being cast out of heaven and down to earth until the consummation of all things is but a "short time" (Revelation 12:12). Thus, Haggai's "little while" is the same as John's "little time," and "short time." In the cosmic view, it will indeed be but a short time until God concludes the affairs of men.

Before leaving Haggai 2:6, it is appropriate to notice that when God speaks of the redemption of men, it is always done in prospect of Final Judgment and God's execution of his wrath upon rebellious humanity. Why is that? God's salvation always means salvation from that final wrath, the survival of the redeemed through the event of that terminal catastrophe, and their endowment with eternal life and glory; hence the dramatic reference to the Judgment here.

"And I will shake all nations ..." This beginning of Haggai 2:7 is not necessarily to be understood as a part of the prophecy of the Last Day, although, of course, the nations of men will indeed be "shaken up" by the events of that terminal Assize, when "all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over Him ... and cry for the rocks and the mountains to hide them." As is characteristic of practically all of the prophecies of the Final Judgment, this one also mingles revelations with it that would appear to have their primary fulfillment in the kingdom of Christ, which is the Church. The latter part of Haggai 2:7 is apparently just such a revelation.

"The precious things of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory ..." To limit this to the Final Judgment would apply the words to the Holy City coming down out of heaven into which the kings of the earth shall bring their treasure (Revelation 21:21). Regardless of that ultimate fulfillment, there were many lesser and more immediate fulfillments of this part of the promise. Not only did the kings of the earth aid the Jews in the building of their Second Temple, but in the days of Herod the Great, that monarch did indeed spend the vast resources of his whole kingdom in the most costly and extravagant decorations of it. And then, looking beyond that, in the days of the spread of Christianity all over the world, the kingly riches that were lavished upon worship of Christ in his holy church truly stagger the imagination. But the glory of God's Temple (the Church) in this current dispensation does not consist of material wealth or elaborate meeting houses and costly decorations, the presence of Christ himself in the midst of his people ... THERE is the true glory of God's temple. This, of course, is the royal badge of the Church's glory: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of you" (Matthew 18:20). Therefore, we apply Haggai 2:7 to God's true temple, the Church of Jesus Christ. The fact of Haggai's apparent mingling of the two events is no problem at all. The final Judgment itself is part of this dispensation just like the Church, both of them standing in the prophecies of events of the "last days." The fusion of the gospel age and the Judgment is common in Biblical prophecy.

"The shaking of the nations ..." Before leaving Haggai 2:7, it must be pointed out that the "shaking of nations" is going on continually. There has hardly been a generation of men upon the earth that did not witness the rise and fall of human kingdoms; and according to Christ this is a situation that will not change (Matthew 24:6-9). The Red Horse of the Apocalypse did not make a foray into the earth and then go back to heaven! He still rides upon our unhappy planet. The seventh head of the great Scarlet Beast shall be succeeded by a period of the "ten horns," the multitude of kingdoms that shall eventually hate all religion.


Verse 8

"The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith Jehovah of hosts."

This is apparently mentioned to indicate that:

"All nations with their wealth come (into Christ's kingdom) and the Gentiles shall bring their treasures, their powers, whatever they most prize, to the service of God ... All that, is here called metaphorically, coming with treasures to the Temple."[10]

This passage is "unmistakably Messianic. There could hardly be a more vivid picture of the covenant promise."[11] What is clearly prophesied here is that the "true riches of God (typified here as the silver and the gold) will make the house of God (the church) outshine the glory of Solomon's temple."[12]


Verse 9

"The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith Jehovah of hosts; and in this place will I give peace, saith Jehovah of hosts."

We have already seen that the true meaning of all that Haggai said was that the glory of Christianity should far outshine the glory of Judaism. The new Temple, the Church, would far surpass the temples of Jerusalem. Now, with reference to whether or not Haggai fully understood all the Lord said through him, we may freely concede that he most probably did not, but as we have repeatedly observed, the subjective imaginations and guesses by scholars trying to figure out what they suppose Haggai thought he was saying are absolutely irrelevant. We hold that the words were not Haggai's at all, but God's; and as Peter indicated (1 Peter 1:10-12), students in the present dispensation have a far better opportunity to understand what God wrote through that prophet than he did.

Therefore, although Haggai probably understood God's words which came through him as predictions of what would be fulfilled with regard to the physical temple they were rebuilding, discerning students of the holy Scriptures cannot fail to understand that much more was included in the heavenly meaning of this magnificent Messianic passage (Haggai 2:6-9). As Wiseman noted, "There was a first fulfillment soon after Haggai wrote, but not completely until Christ's reign."[13]

Before leaving this wonderful Messianic prophecy, we must call attention to the rendition of the KJV in Haggai 2:7, which reads:

"I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts."

In every way, this translation is far more suitable than subsequent renditions. The translators of most of the versions and translations since the KJV have made "desire" plural, reading it "the desires" "the precious things," "the desirable things," etc.; and, while we must accept the grammatical logic of this, it could very well be that the translators have been too much influenced by the Septuagint (LXX) in this place. Charles L. Feinberg discussed this verse as follows:

"It is well to remember, however, that from the earliest days the majority of Christian interpreters followed the Jewish tradition in referring the passage to the coming of Israel's Messiah. It seems clear that the longing all nations have in common must be their yearning for the Deliverer, whether or not they realize the nature of their desire or the identity of its true fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Moreover, in Hebrew an abstract noun is often used instead of the concrete; thus a reference to the Messiah is not automatically ruled out on the basis of language considerations. The use of a plural verb here does not militate against the Messianic interpretation, for there are instances in which the verb agrees with the second of two nouns."[14]SIZE>

This writer does not claim any competence to decide such a question of Hebrew grammar; but, upon the unequivocal analysis of such a scholar as Feinberg (Dean, and Professor of Semitics, Talbot Theological Seminary, La Mirada, California), which, as far as we are able to determine is not contradicted by any authority whatever, we must in conscience receive the rendition which, to us, is clearly demanded by the entire context.

Haggai 2:7 plainly connects the filling of God's house with glory to the prior fact of the "Desire of all nations" having been brought into it; and "the desirable things" of all nations such as their wealth, their gold and silver, could not in any sense be viewed as "the glory" of God's house. The very next verse reminds us that God already owns all the gold and silver; and far from being an explanation of the nature of the promised glory, verse 8 is an explanation of what the glory is not!

Despite our preference for the KJV in this verse, the commentary above is written upon our version (ASV) and interpreted accordingly.

Gill properly discerned the true "glory" of the Lord's house. It is that "peace" mentioned at the conclusion of Haggai 2:9.

"The peace which prevails in the true and more glorious temple of God is not "as the world gives" (John 14:27). It comes only from complete surrender to and complete trust in Him Who is the meaning of the old temple and the High Priest of the new."[15]

"In this place will I give peace, saith Jehovah of hosts ..." In no sense may this be applied to the rebuilt temple; only in Christ is there "peace that passeth understanding." As for Zerubbabel's building,

"That which made it both sanctuary and temple was missing. Yahweh's glory did not fill it. Yahweh was not present there in creating and redeeming power."[16]

"Peace ..." The RSV and other versions have rendered this word "prosperity" for no compelling reason; and again we are compelled to find fault with this type of tampering with the Word of God. The Hebrew word here is "Shalom."[17] And, while it is true enough that it "has a comprehensive meaning, signifying total mental, spiritual, and physical well-being,"[18] "peace" is the primary meaning of the word; and it is thus used at the present time by Jews all over the world. To make this read "prosperity" is ridiculous, for the present-day meaning of "prosperity" leaves out of sight all the higher significance of the passage.

"In this place ..." As Keil accurately pointed out, "This place is not the temple, but the city of Jerusalem,"[19] from which place the word of the Lord went forth from Mount Zion. Again, it is the glory of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus that provides the complete fulfillment of the passage. "Peace" for mankind never yet came out of a Jewish temple.


Verse 10

"In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of Jehovah by Haggai the prophet saying."

THIRD MESSAGE OF HAGGAI

Regarding this date, Dean wrote, "The ninth month is Chisleu, answering to parts of November and December."[20] The message about to be introduced concerning the contrasting characteristics between holiness and defilement.


Verse 11

"Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any food, shall it become holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by reason of a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean."

"Ask now the priests concerning the law..." "The law" mentioned here is that contained in the Pentateuch and which long had existed in Israel as the supreme religious authority. The allegation that the prophet of God was here requesting the priests to make a new law is preposterous. Throughout the minor prophets, we have repeatedly found references to hundreds of specific provisions and requirements of God's law as written in the Pentateuch; and there is no reasonable way to doubt that Haggai here was referring to that prior existing code of God's laws. It is no embarrassment at all to us that many of the current liberal interpreters do indeed deny this. For example:

"The oral teaching of the priests was eventually incorporated in the Torah (the Pentateuch). Nothing can be proved from Haggai's words as to the existence in his day of written code of laws. No exact parallel to the priests' teaching here is to be found in the Torah."[21]

We reject out of hand the notion that we have in this so-called "pericope" a picture of the making of the Old Testament. Haggai did not say to the priests, make us a law about the situation mentioned; but "tell the people what the law is!" The exact passage of the Old Testament that carries the full and exact teaching of that enunciated by the priests in this interview is Numbers 19:11,22, as follows:

"He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days ... and whosoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean."

Apparently, some of the commentators are simply unaware of what God's law surely contains. Despite the fact of the uncleanness in Numbers being a reference to uncleanness caused by a dead body; the principle would of necessity apply to all uncleanness. In fact, Numbers 19:22 makes precisely that application of it.

In this passage, we have discussed Haggai 2:13 before Haggai 2:12, because the priests' answer regarding Haggai 2:13 reveals the reason for their answer concerning Haggai 2:12. The prophet, in fact, propounded two queries: (1) regarding a situation upon which the word of the Lord had provided no directive, and (2) regarding a situation that was most explicitly covered in the sacred law. In the second case, regarding the transferability, or contagiousness of defilement, their answer fully conformed to Numbers 19:11,22, but in the first situation, regarding the same quality as applied to holiness, their answer conformed exactly to all situations where the Lord had not spoken; and they declined to make a law where God had not provided one. Only God had the right to declare anything "holy" or "defiled" regarding ceremonial uncleanness. Most of the Old Testament revelation regarding such things was very specific. That the priests consulted by Haggai in this passage had anything to do with what was incorporated into the Pentateuch is impossible to believe. What they commanded in case (2) was already covered. What they refused to allow as "holy" in case (1) was not specifically covered, except upon the premise that only those things God declares to be "holy" are actually so.

The lesson Haggai sought to bring out by this line of questioning was understood by Gill, as follows:

"A basic principle is revealed here. The influence of holiness is not as far-reaching as the influence of unholiness. A rotten apple will corrupt a barrel of good apples; but a good apple will not transform a barrel of rotten apples."[22]

Haggai's application of this principle to the returned Israelites was this: (1) they had erected an altar to God on the old location and had begun to build the temple. This was allowed to be "holiness." Did that automatically entitle the whole people and the entire land to be counted "holy"? Despite that, it appears that many were expecting God to bless them far more than had been evident in the scanty harvests and hard times through which they were passing. The reason: the people had not really become "holy" through the token beginning they had made. (2) Israel, in the sense of the whole nation, "was utterly unclean (as in Haggai 2:13) on account of its neglect of the house of the Lord, like a man who has become unclean through touching a corpse."[23] This uncleanness would not be easily removed; and therefore the people must not complain of hard times and inconveniences; when they do better, God will more abundantly bless them! As Keil further explained, the teaching of this passage is preparatory to the prophet's explanation of the crop-failures and the withholding of divine blessing. "Those things were the punishment of his people for their unfaithfulness (Haggai 2:15-19)."[24]


Verse 14

"Then answered Haggai and said, So is this people and so is this nation before me, saith Jehovah; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. And now, I pray you, consider from this day and backward, before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of Jehovah."

Thus, Haggai applied the analogy we have already discussed under the previous verses. Yes, the altar they had erected upon the original site, in conformity to God's law, was "holy", but the sinful nation (continuing in their neglect of sacred duty) were unholy still, and, therefore, the very sacrifices they offered were themselves unholy through contamination by contact with the sinful nation. The sinful nation would have to make some changes before blessings could be bestowed.

"Consider from this day and backward ..." This was a call for the people to look back over the past fourteen years of their shameful neglect of the principal purpose for which they had been allowed by the Father to return to their homeland, and to observe the stark lack of God's blessing. He then proceeded to specify exactly what had been taking place. Why had not God blessed them? The whole nation was defiled through their long neglect of sacred duty and the two generations of contact with Babylonian paganism.


Verse 16

"Through all that time, when one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten; when one came to the winevat to draw out fifty vessels, there were but twenty."

"Through all that time ..." Through all the fourteen years after they had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, and during which time they had utterly neglected it. Crops failed, expectations were not met; God did not bless them. So-called "modern man" is inclined to reject any view that connects his earthly success with concern for holy religion, but he is profoundly wrong in this. A broad view of the human race on earth clearly reveals that the people who have honored God enjoy degrees of earthly prosperity unmatched and even unapproached by anything visible in those lands where paganism still prevails. As long as a substantial proportion of a nation are God-fearing, honest, Christ-worshipping people, the land prospers, much of the prosperity spilling over to bless blatant and unrepentant sinners; but when the character of a whole nation is changed, the blessings of God are invariably withheld. Individually, therefore, there must be countless exceptions to the principle expounded by Haggai; but, as applied to nations, there are no historical exceptions to it. Godless Russia, possessing three fifths of the resources of the whole world today and unable to feed its population is a classical and current example.


Verse 17

"I smote you with blasting and mildew and with hail in all the work of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith Jehovah."

How does one view this? Could it be true that all they needed was some good fungicides and hail insurance? Well, how about the Med-fly in California this very day? We have plenty of fungicides and insecticides; and the point is that, no matter what men have, or fancy they have, they must also have the blessing of Almighty God in order to make it. Israel did not have it, and they were not making it!


Verse 18

"Consider, I pray you, from this day and backward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, since the day that the foundation of Jehovah's temple was laid, consider it."

Although the disastrous conditions had continued right up until the very day the foundation of the temple was laid, and despite there hardly being enough seed in the granaries to sow the fields, Haggai will now pronounce an astounding blessing upon the people.


Verse 19

"Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, the vine, and the fig-tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive-tree have not brought forth; from this day will I bless you."

Some uncertainty exists regarding the meaning of this reference to seed in the barn, etc.; but it seems to be that Haggai is saying, "even if you do not have much to plant, and even if the trees and vineyards have been persistently unproductive, FROM THIS DAY, God will richly and overwhelmingly bless you!" Though there was no sign of leaf or fruit upon the trees, and hardly enough seed in the barn, nothing by which men could judge of the future abundance, "Yet the prophet predicts an abundant crop, dating from the people's obedience."[25]


Verse 20

"And the word of Jehovah came the second time unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, Speak to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth."

HAGGAI'S FOURTH MESSAGE

"The word ... came the second time ..." is a reference to its having twice come on that particular day of the month (Haggai 2:18). This is the same ninth month, Chisleu, corresponding to November/December.

"Speak to Zerubbabel ..." As the "stand in" head of the theocracy, Zerubbabel was a representative of the house of David; and to him the prophet now revealed spiritual blessings, of which the physical and economic blessings already foretold were tokens.

"I will shake the heavens and the earth ..." This is repeated from Haggai 2:6 (see notes on that passage), and will be elaborated and expanded in this final outburst of Messianic prophecy. "Once again, God will intervene in human affairs (shake the heavens and the earth)."[26] God surely had intervened in human affairs by the summary end which he had brought to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews; and the prophet here made such an intervention by God upon behalf of his people a prophecy of a far greater shaking of the "heavens and the earth" to occur in the dispensation of the "last times." Included in the prophecy are events associated with the age of the gospel and with the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.


Verse 22

"And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of nations; and I will overthrow the chariots; and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother."

"I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms ..." This is a summary of human history throughout its entirety. God overthrew kingdoms in the times of Haggai, and soon thereafter, and has continued to overthrow kingdoms ever since. In fact, God, right now, is in the business of overthrowing kingdoms. All human kingdoms are founded upon false values; and sin, injustice, oppression, and exploitation at last mar the image of the best of them. There has never been founded a "permanent" earthly kingdom. The vain and ruthless perpetrators of the French Revolution imagined that they were building for all time, even changing the names of the calendar months, and dating history from their godless revolution. Hitler boasted that his "Third Reich" would last a thousand years, but it perished in blood and fire while Hitler himself was a young man, himself also carried away by its collapse. But is it any different with any other human state? No! "I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms" is the divine sentence from heaven against all of them.

It should be noted here that military terminology dominates this passage: "strength of nations," "chariots," "horses," and "sword." Jesus spoke of "wars and rumors of wars," declaring that "the end is not yet," indicating that these shall continue throughout all time to the end. How will God destroy the nations of men? "Every one by the sword of his brother ..." That is the "modus operandi" of the divine will.

In the light of this obvious meaning of the passage, we cannot join with those who apply these words exclusively to the overthrow of Babylon, or any of the other numerous upheavals of either ancient or modern history. Haggai held up for all men to see it who will, the character of all earthly states, as well as the means of their ultimate overthrow, "Every one by the sword of his brother."

However, true as these observations are believed to be, there is a far greater fulfillment of this passage yet future, as humanity approaches the end of their probation, as wickedness waxes worse and worse, as human states tend more and more to deify humanity and to reject the knowledge of God altogether, in the end times, all the nations of men will be overthrown in one cataclysmic occurrence. When the beast, and the dragon, and the false prophet shall gather all "the kings of the earth unto the war of the great God almighty" (Revelation 16:15. At that time "the cities of the nations" shall fall Revelation 16:19), and the primeval sentence upon Adam and Eve shall finally be executed in the person of their total posterity.

We do not need to suppose for a moment that Haggai grasped the full import of God's Word which came through him. Our own enlightenment upon what is meant can be immeasurably aided by the writings of the New Testament apostles and prophets of the New Covenant, notably among whom is the apostle John.


Verse 23

"In that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith Jehovah, and will make thee as a signet; for I have chosen thee, saith Jehovah of hosts."

We must apologize for those writers who suppose that Haggai thought Zerubbabel was the Messiah, and that such is what he wrote in this passage. That Haggai and all of Israel might indeed have had such a notion is true enough; but this passage does not say that.

"In that day ..." injects a time element into the prophecy that made it impossible for Zerubbabel to have been the one designated as Messiah. "In that day" in the prophecies almost invariably means "in the days of the New Covenant," "in the last days," "in the times of the kingdom of Christ," or "at a time far removed from the present."

Zerubbabel stands in this passage as a type of the Messiah; and as "the only son of David" known to the world of that day, Haggai's use of his name is a prophecy that, in time, the "Son of David," who is Christ the Lord would fulfil the prophecy. A very similar thing was done by Malachi who stated that Elijah would come "before the great and notable day of the Lord" (Malachi 4:5), which prophecy had no reference whatever to literal Elijah, dead and buried for centuries, but on the other hand was a prophecy of John the Baptist who would come "in the spirit and power" of Elijah. Similarly, Jesus, the true Messiah, was the true "Son of David," a title held by Zerubbabel only by accommodation. A note in the Douay Version states: "This promise relates to Christ who was of the race of Zerubbabel."<26a> "The meaning is that the Messianic descent was to come through Zerubbabel, of the line of David, just as it did through David himself."[27] And, of course, both the Matthew and Lucan genealogies show that this was exactly fulfilled. Zerubbabel stands in both of them. "David's secure throne (that of Christ) is here contrasted with the tottering dynasties of the world."[28]

"Jesus Christ has raised up the kingdom of his father David, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Even though it may appear oppressed and humiliated for the time by the power of the kingdoms of the heathen, it will never be crushed and destroyed, but will break in pieces all these kingdoms and destroy them, and will endure forever (Daniel 2:44; Hebrews 12:28; 1 Corinthians 15:24)."[29]

"I will make thee as a signet ..." The signet ring conferred upon its wearer the full authority and power of the giver; and this is a pledge of the absolute authority and power of Jesus Christ. As Deane put it, "The true Zerubbabel, Christ, the son and antitype of Zerubbabel, is the signet in the hand of the Father."[30] "Haggai, like Zechariah, saw in Zerubbabel the Messianic King,"[31] This was in the fullness of time fully vindicated as an authentic vision. It is pointless to speculate upon Haggai's complete understanding of what Jehovah here said, or not. Whether he did, or didn't, he faithfully reported God's Word.

Zerubbabel is seen as a type of Christ in that, "He led the people out of Babylonian bondage, as Christ would lead his people out of the bondage of sin. Also, he built a temple, as Christ built the far greater Temple of his Church."[32]

All of the commentators mention what they call Haggai's disappointment at Zerubbabel's turning out not to be the Msesiah, but even if such a supposition was true, it could not have been due to anything that Haggai wrote. "That day" mentioned in this final passage, as Galley pointed out "is the Day of the Lord when the heavens and the earth will be shaken,"[33] in fact removing the fulfillment of the prophecy to times long subsequent to Haggai. The spiritual legacy which Haggai has left us is, "the assurance that God will be with his people when they act in faith and obedience to the demand that he be given the first place."[34]

See below for a summary of the entire prophecy:

SUMMARY OF THE PROPHECY

Wonderful things had happened to Israel, the people at that time being Judah and Benjamin alone, Ephraim and the northern tribes having been permanently removed from history. Judah also had fallen completely away from God except for a precious remnant; and Judah suffered the same fate as Ephraim, being carried into slavery; but there was a glorious distinction. Judah would continue throughout history.

Contrary to what any human could have supposed, the king (Cyrus) of the enslaving power freed them, ordered their return to Palestine and the rebuilding of the house of their God! At first, a remnant of the people obeyed; and they even erected an altar to God on the ancient site in Jerusalem; but then their zeal faded, and for half a lifetime the old Temple continued to lie in ruins. It might have remained that way forever; but the mighty Haggai challenged and overcame the lethargy of the people. His four addresses to the people make up the book that bears his name in the Bible.

THE FIRST MESSAGE

(Elul, Aug./Sept., 520 B.C.)

Arise, and build the Temple! The hard times you people are having are due to your unfaithfulness in not rebuilding the Temple. If you want better times, then do better in fulfilling your religious obligations. Get busy! Go up to the mountains; cut the timber, and get on with the work, now! Let's have none of that nonsense about the time not being ripe; do you suppose the times are ripe for you to live in your nice houses while the house of God lies in ruins ? God will again be with you people, if you will only get to work doing your duty.

THE SECOND MESSAGE

(In Teshri, Sept./Oct., 520 B.C.)

(After construction had promptly begun and the outline of the new Temple began to appear.) Some of you older ones remember the glory and extravagant wealth of the First Temple, and you are belittling this one because of its inferiority in your eyes; but the glory of this house shall exceed that of the first (Haggai 2:9). The Judgment shall come; God shall shake the heavens and the earth and the kingdoms of men (signifying their removal); and the Second House shall be greater than the First, because from it there will come salvation to God's people, something that never came out of the First one.

Of particular interest in Haggai's use of "little while" in Haggai 2:6 to describe the entire history of God's dealings with humanity until the end of time, corresponding exactly with the apostle John's use of "little time" to describe the period of human probation ending in the final judgment (Revelation 6:11), and "short time" to describe the period of Satan's operations against mankind (Revelation 12:12).

THE THIRD MESSAGE

(Chisleu, Nov./Dec., 520 B.C.)

You people seem to have another objection, claiming that you are entitled to God's blessings already, because you have erected an altar and make sacrifices to God. Well, that is a very small thing; and holiness is not that contagious! One good apple cannot make a barrel of rotten apples good; and your little token of serving God is not nearly enough to entitle you to the presumption of holiness. Through two whole generations of pollution incurred by you in the land of your captivity, you are thoroughly unclean; and nothing but a wholehearted return of the whole remnant (all the returnees) to God, and their diligent service to God continually will really entitle you to God's blessings. If you think that little token rebuilding you started sixteen years ago does it, take a look; look at the failure of the wine, and the grain; and even when you got a little harvest, God blew it away; so get with it, and complete the Temple!

(Significantly, Haggai here connected the very class of disasters modern man likes to explain solely upon the basis of "natural causes" as judgmental in character.)

THE FOURTH MESSAGE

(Chisleu, Nov./Dec., 520 B.C.)

In this, uttered the very same day as the third message, Haggai returned to the prophecy of final judgment and ultimate salvation of God's people.

God will shake the heavens and the earth and overthrow all the kingdoms of men, "every one by the sword of his brother." Zerubbabel will be a signet ring to God. This mention of Zerubbabel is not a mistaken identification of Zerubbabel as the Messiah; but it is a prophecy of Christ, of whom Zerubabbel was a type. Salvation and Judgment are the twin themes of these two Messianic prophecies here and in Haggai 1:1-9. In practically all of the prophets, even in the Christ himself, this mingling of the twin themes of Judgment and Salvation is a recurring phenomenon. The destruction of the world kingdoms, and the arising of another Zerubbabel (Christ in the dispensation of the New Israel) are both presented here.

Zerubbabel's significance lies in the fact of his being the only visible heir and successor to David that was known in that age; and the inclusion of the Babylonian governor of Israel in the prophecy meant that God's ancient promise to David of one to sit upon his throne was yet valid, that it still stood, and that "in that day" the new Zerubbabel would appear. The expression, "in that day," practically always a reference to the "last times," makes it impossible to refer the words here to the Zerubbabel known to Haggai. Of course, Zerubbabel was an excellent type of Christ. He led the people out of slavery; Christ leads men out of sin; he built a temple; Christ built the greater temple of his Church; etc.

May the Lord ever bless the study of His Sacred Word!

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Haggai 2:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/haggai-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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