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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Haggai 2

 

 

Verse 1

The Lord revealed another message, an oracle of encouragement, to Haggai almost one month later, on the twenty-first day of the seventh month (Tishri, modern October17) of the same year, 520 B.C. This was the last day of the feast of Tabernacles (Booths). Tishri was a month of celebrations for the Israelites. On the first of this month they celebrated the feast of Trumpets, and on the tenth, the day of Atonement. The feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days, and the following day was a day of rest ( Leviticus 23:33-44).


Verses 1-9

II. A PROMISE OF FUTURE GLORY FOR THE TEMPLE2:1-9


Verse 2

The audience was the same as the one that received the first message: Zerubbabel, Joshua , and the entire Judean population.


Verse 3

The Lord asked if the older members of the restoration community who had seen Solomon"s temple, which perished66 years earlier, did not think the present temple was nothing in comparison (cf. Zechariah 4:10). The Lord"s three questions forced the people to admit that the present temple was not as grand as the former one had been. The older returnees had made a similar negative comparison when the foundation of the temple was laid16 years earlier in536 B.C (cf. Ezra 3:8-13). The dedication of Solomon"s temple took place440 years earlier at the feast of Tabernacles ( 1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chronicles 7:8-10), so that was perhaps the reason the Lord gave this message to Haggai on this day.


Verse 4

The Lord again encouraged Zerubbabel, Joshua , and the people to work, and He promised again to be with them (cf. Haggai 1:13). David had given the same charge and promise to Solomon regarding the first temple ( 1 Chronicles 28:10; 1 Chronicles 28:20). Comparisons can be discouraging when doing the Lord"s work, so people involved in it need to remind themselves that He is with them (cf. Matthew 28:20; Mark 6:50).

"The key to tackling despondency is found here: stop listening to ourselves and start listening to him and his word of promise." [Note: Motyer, p987.]


Verse 5

The Lord reiterated the promise He had made to the Israelites when they left Egypt in the Exodus. His Spirit would stay in their midst, so they did not need to fear (cf. Exodus 19:4-6; Exodus 33:14). The returnees could identify with their forefathers who departed from Egypt because they had recently departed from another captivity in Babylon. As the Lord had been with them in the cloudy pillar, so He was with them now. As David had encouraged Solomon to build the first temple with the promise that God would be with him ( 1 Chronicles 28:20), so Haggai encouraged Zerubbabel and Joshua to build the second temple with the same promise.

"There must have been those who were theologically naive and doubted that God could be with them if the temple and the ark in particular were not intact.

"Undoubtedly fear gripped many of the returnees-fear that God had written an eternal "Ichabod" over Jerusalem, fear that no amount of praying or piety would induce him to bless them again, fear that the whole endeavor was in vain, fear that the political enemies would in fact win, fear that all was lost." [Note: Alden, p585.]


Verse 6

The basis of their confidence and lack of fear was a promise from Almighty Yahweh. He would do again in the future what He had done at the Exodus and at Mt. Sinai ( Exodus 19:16; Exodus 19:18; Psalm 68:8; Psalm 77:16-18). Shaking the heavens and the earth describes an earthquake, which was an evidence of the Lord"s supernatural intervention (cf. Isaiah 2:12-21; Isaiah 13:13; Ezekiel 38:20; Amos 8:8). This will occur when Christ returns to the earth ( Joel 3:16; Matthew 24:29-30).

The writer of Hebrews quoted this verse in Hebrews 12:26. He then added that we who are in Christ have an unshakable kingdom that will endure the coming cosmic earthquake ( Hebrews 12:28-29). Haggai"s prophecy still awaits fulfillment.

"The New Testament writer sees in Haggai"s language an implicit contrast between the transitory nature of the old economy and the abiding permanence of the new economy that was initiated by the mission of Jesus." [Note: Taylor, p159.]


Verse 7

At the same time, Almighty Yahweh would shake all the nations; His return will upset the political and governmental structures of the world (cf. Zechariah 14:1-4). The nations would bring their wealth to the Israelites, like the Egyptians gave their treasures to the departing Hebrews at the Exodus (cf. Exodus 3:21-22; Exodus 11:2-3; Exodus 12:35-36).

Some English translations have "the desire of all nations will come." This "desire" could be an impersonal reference to the wealth that the nations desire (cf. Isaiah 60:5; Zechariah 14:14). [Note: Robert B. Chisholm Jeremiah , "A Theology of the Minor Prophets," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, p421; idem, Handbook on . . ., pp452-53; Taylor, p161-65.] Or this could be a personal reference. In this case it could be a messianic prophecy, which is why some translations capitalized "Desire." Charles Wesley followed this second interpretation when he wrote the Christmas hymn "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." "Come, Desire of nations, come! Fix in us Thy humble home. The Hebrew text does not solve the problem, which is interpretive. Perhaps the Lord was deliberately ambiguous and had both things in mind: the wealth of the nations and Messiah. [Note: Herbert Wolf, Haggai and Malachi , pp34-37.]

"It is well to remember ... that from earliest days the majority of Christian interpreters followed the Jewish tradition in referring the passage to the coming of Israel"s Messiah." [Note: Charles L. Feinberg, " Haggai ," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p893.]

The Lord also promised to fill the temple with glory. The temple in view must be the millennial temple rather than the second (restoration) temple in view of the context. This glory could be the wealth that the nations will bring to it (cf. Isaiah 60:7; Isaiah 60:13). Or the glory in view may be the glory of God"s own presence (cf. Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Ezekiel 43:1-12). Simeon referred to the infant Jesus as "the glory of your people Israel" ( Luke 2:32). However, Jesus" presence in Herod"s temple only prefigured the divine glory that will be present in the millennial temple.


Verse 8

This verse seems to support the view that impersonal wealth is in view in Haggai 2:7. The Lord reminded the people that He controlled all the silver and gold in the world, so He could cause the nations to bring it to the temple in the future.

"The point may well be that because all such things are His and are therefore not of value to Him, His own glory is what is central." [Note: Merrill, p41.]

This reminder would have encouraged Haggai"s contemporaries as they rebuilt the temple as well. God could bring more financial resources to them so they could glorify their presently modest temple.


Verse 9

Even though the present temple was less glorious than Solomon"s temple, the Lord promised that the final glory of the temple would be greater than its former glory. The Lord also promised to bring peace to the site of the temple, Jerusalem. Neither of these things has happened yet, so the fulfillment must be future (millennial). Lasting peace will only come when Messiah returns to rule and reign (cf. Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:6; Zechariah 9:9-10). Jesus Christ"s adornment of the second temple, as renovated by Herod the Great, with His presence hardly seems to fulfill the exalted promises in this prophecy. [Note: Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," p421.]

The Lord used the occasion of the feast of Tabernacles to encourage the builders of the temple in Haggai"s day. This feast looked back to the Exodus , reminded the Israelites of their wilderness wanderings, and anticipated settlement in the Promised Land. This message also looked back to the Exodus , referred to the present temple construction, and anticipated the glory of the future temple.


Verse 10

Another prophecy came from the Lord on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of520 B.C. (Kislev24 , December18). This date holds particular significance because it was on this day, five years later, that the temple was rededicated.The Jews celebrated this event with the Feast of Chanukah (lit. Dedication) and still do.During the two months between this prophecy and the former one ( Haggai 2:1-9), Zechariah began his ministry in Jerusalem ( Zechariah 1:1).


Verses 10-19

III. A PROMISE OF FUTURE BLESSING FOR THE PEOPLE2:10-19


Verse 11

Almighty Yahweh instructed Haggai to request a ruling from the priests. The priests were the official interpreters of the Mosaic Law, and what follows deals with matters of ceremonial defilement. This is a didactic sermon, designed to teach an important lesson about religious impurity.


Verse 12

The question was, if someone carries consecrated food in his garment and touches other food of any kind with the garment, will that food become holy? Holy meat was meat set apart for a particular sacrificial purpose (cf. Leviticus 6:25; Numbers 6:20). The answer was, no it would not become holy. The meat carried in the garment would make the garment holy, but the holiness would not be communicated beyond the garment to anything else (cf. Exodus 29:37; Leviticus 6:27; Ezekiel 44:19; Matthew 23:19). The people were apparently thinking that since they were working on the holy temple all that they contacted and did became holy. Another view is that the Lord sought to discourage His people from taking gifts from pagan rulers and using them to build the temple (cf. Ezra 6:8-10). [Note: See Merrill, pp45-46 , 49.]


Verse 13

A second question was, if someone who has become unclean, for example by touching a corpse, touches food of any kind, will the food become unclean? The answer was, yes it would become unclean. The Mosaic Law taught that moral uncleanness could be transmitted, but moral cleanness could not (cf. Leviticus 6:18; Leviticus 22:4-6; Numbers 19:11-16). The same principle applies, by the way, in the area of physical health today. A sick person can transmit his or her illness to healthy people and make them sick, but a healthy person cannot transmit his or her health to sick people and make them well.

"The long disobedience of the nation rendered their work unprofitable before God." [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p962.]


Verse 14

Haggai then made an application of this principle to the people for the Lord. Their sacrifices were unacceptable to God because they were unclean. They should not think that contact with something holy, such as the temple they were working to complete, made them acceptable to God. They had previously been unclean, so their present sacrifices were unacceptable to God.


Verse 15-16

The people needed to give careful consideration to something again (cf. Haggai 1:5; Haggai 1:7). They needed to remember that before they began to obey the Lord by rebuilding the temple ( Haggai 1:12) they had been disobedient to the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Haggai 1:5-11). The Lord"s punishment for their covenant unfaithfulness had been greatly reduced harvests. Their grains had decreased by50 percent and their grapes by60 percent.


Verse 17

The Lord had used hot winds, mildew, and hail to smite the people and what they had planted, but they still did not repent (cf. Amos 4:9). Hot winds posed problems for crops because of the dry heat, and mildew created other problems because of excessive moisture. Perhaps these conditions are a merism describing polar opposites that together mean all types of weather-related problems. [Note: Taylor, p185.] Hail, one of the plagues on Egypt ( Exodus 9:13-35), caused severe damage to unprotected crops.


Verse 18-19

The people were to notice something on the day this prophecy reached their ears, the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. They were to notice that from the day they started to rebuild the temple, their hardships had continued (cf. Haggai 1:14-15). They still suffered shortages of staples such as seed, grapes, and olives, and luxuries such as figs and pomegranates. However, the Lord revealed that He would now bless them, beginning that very day, the twenty-fourth of the ninth month.

This oracle explained why agricultural blessing had not begun immediately after the people resumed reconstruction on the temple. Their present dedication and obedience did not wipe out their previous covenant unfaithfulness and its punishments. That punishment had to run its course, but now, as of the day of this prophecy, God would begin to bless the people with better harvests. This message would have encouraged the Jews to persevere in their obedience.

God will bless His people for their obedience, but sometimes He will not erase the punishment that previous sins have made necessary. Sin always brings death ( Romans 6:23). Sometimes that punishment must run its course before blessing can begin.


Verse 20

The Lord gave Haggai a second message on the same day as the previous message ( Haggai 2:10), the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (Kislev24 , December18). This was an oracle of salvation. [Note: See Claus Westermann, Prophetic Oracles of Salvation in the Old Testament.] Its purpose was to announce the Lord"s intention to raise up a new leader for His people.


Verses 20-23

IV. A PROPHECY CONCERNING ZERUBBABEL2:20-23

"The final verses of his book reveal Haggai as the literary equivalent of an impressionist painter-he gives general tone and effect without elaborate detail." [Note: Motyer, p1000.]


Verse 21

Haggai was to tell Zerubbabel that Yahweh was going to shake the heavens and the earth. Again a divine judgment is in view (cf. Haggai 2:6). That Zerubbabel, not Joshua or the people, is the recipient suggests that the message deals with a royal prediction.


Verse 22

The Lord announced that He was going to overthrow the rulers of the nations of the earth (cf. Exodus 15:5; Daniel 2:34-35; Daniel 2:44-45). He would defeat their armies by turning them against each other (cf. Zechariah 12:2-9; Zechariah 14:1-5; Revelation 16:16-18; Revelation 19:11-21).


Verse 23

When He did that, the Lord promised to make Zerubbabel His servant. The title "my servant" is often messianic in the Old Testament (cf. 2 Samuel 3:18; 1 Kings 11:34; Isaiah 42:1-9; Isaiah 49:1-13; Isaiah 50:4-11; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25). Zechariah , Haggai"s contemporary, used another messianic title to refer to Zerubbabel: the branch ( Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12; cf. Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 33:14-16). The Lord would make Zerubbabel like a signet ring because He had chosen him for a special purpose. A signet ring was what kings used to designate royal authority and personal ownership (cf. 1 Kings 21:8; Daniel 6:17; Esther 8:8). God had chosen Zerubbabel to designate royal authority and personal ownership, namely, the coming Messiah. God had revealed through Jeremiah that if Jehoiachin, Zerubbabel"s grandfather, was His signet ring, He would take it off and give it to Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Jeremiah 22:24-25). Thus it is clear that this figure of a signet ring views Zerubbabel as the descendant of David and Jehoiachin through whom God would provide the victory promised in Haggai 2:21-22. He will do that not through Zerubbabel personally but through one of his descendants, namely, Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 1:21).

The curse on Jehoiachin that none of his descendants would sit on David"s throne or rule in Judah ( Jeremiah 22:30) may have referred to his immediate descendants (i.e, children). However, Jesus Christ qualified as a Davidic king because He was the physical descendant of Nathan, one of David"s sons, not Solomon. Jesus was the legal son of Joseph, who was a physical descendant of Solomon and Jehoiachin (cf. Matthew 1:12-16; Luke 3:23-31).

"God reverses to Zerubbabel the sentence on Jeconiah." [Note: Edward B. Pusey, The Minor Prophets, 2:320. Cf. Chisholm, Handbook on . . ., p455; and Kaiser, p252.]

Zerubbabel represents or typifies the Messiah here (cf. Joshua"s similar role in Zechariah 6:9-15). His name becomes a code name (atbash) for the promised Messiah. [Note: See Herbert Wolf, "The Desire of All Nations in Haggai 2:7: Messianic or Not?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society19 (1976):101-2.] The certainty of this promise is clear from the threefold repetition of "Yahweh," twice as "Yahweh of hosts."

"... key events of the past (David"s coming to power, Sodom, the Exodus , Gideon) became symbols of the coming day, and the same is true of key people. David became so identified with what the Lord would yet do that not only was every successive king compared with him but the Messiah was even called David ( Ezekiel 34:23)." [Note: Motyer, p1002.]

Other passages that speak of Messiah as David include Jeremiah 30:9 and Hosea 3:5.

"By calling Zerubbabel His "servant" and "chosen" one God gave him the same status David had enjoyed (cf. 2 Samuel 3:18; 2 Samuel 6:21; 2 Samuel 7:5; 2 Samuel 7:8; 2 Samuel 7:26; 1 Kings 8:16). The comparison to a "signet ring" indicates a position of authority and reverses the judgment pronounced on Zerubbabel"s grandfather Jehoiachin (cf. Jeremiah 22:24-30).

"The words of Haggai 2:21-23, though spoken directly to Zerubbabel, were not fulfilled in his day. How is one to explain this apparent failure of Haggai"s prophecy? Zerubbabel, a descendant of David and governor of Judah, was the official representative of the Davidic dynasty in the postexilic community at that time. As such the prophecy of the future exaltation of the Davidic throne was attached to his person. As with the Temple (cf. Haggai 2:6-9), Haggai related an eschatological reality to a tangible historical entity to assure his contemporaries that God had great plans for His people. Zerubbabel was, as it were, the visible guarantee of a glorious future for the house of David. In Haggai"s day some may have actually entertained messianic hopes for Zerubbabel. However, in the progress of revelation and history Jesus Christ fulfills Haggai"s prophecy." [Note: Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," p422.]

"Perhaps the prophecy should be taken at face value, but with an implicit element of contingency attached. The Lord may have desired to restore the glory of the Davidic throne in Zerubbabel"s day, only to have subsequent developments within the postexilic community cause him to postpone that event, thereby relegating Zerubbabel to an archetype of the great king to come." [Note: Idem, Handbook on . . ., p455.]

"Were these pronouncements actually fulfilled in Zerubbabel? Did he usher in a restoration of Israelite monarchy that was accompanied by the overthrow of Gentile nations in the fashion that Haggai describes? The history of this period provides no evidence that he did so. Haggai"s promises did not come to fruition in the person of Zerubbabel. On the contrary, not long after this prophecy was given, Zerubbabel dropped into obscurity and passed off the scene. History is silent about what became of him or under what conditions he concluded his life." [Note: Taylor, pp198-99.]

"That Haggai himself necessarily expected a delayed fulfillment of his words is not likely. He had no way of anticipating the temporal distances that might exist between prediction and fulfillment." [Note: Ibid, p201.]

This final oracle promises a future overthrow of the Gentile nations that were, in Haggai"s day, exercising sovereignty over Israel. A descendant of King Jehoiachin, and before him David, would be God"s agent in that day. He would come from Zerubbabel"s descendants and would be similar to Zerubbabel in that He would be the political ruler of God"s people. Whereas God had withdrawn His signet ring (symbolic of divine selection and investiture with authority) from Jehoiachin ( Jeremiah 22:24), He would give it back to a future descendant of Zerubbabel. This was an act of pure grace and faithfulness on sovereign Yahweh"s part since the Israelites did not deserve such a future nor could they bring it about on their own. Such a message would have encouraged and motivated the returned exiles to complete the temple since there was still a glorious future for their nation in God"s plans.

"Haggai"s sermons alternated between accusation and encouragement. (This is true of most of the prophets and in a sense should characterize all ministry.) The first sermon was basically negative. The second one aimed to encourage. [The third] ... one is again essentially chiding and accusation. And ... the last one is positive and uplifting." [Note: Alden, p588.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Haggai 2:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/haggai-2.html. 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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