Haggai Exhorts the Temple Builders
JEHOVAH God caused this prophecy of reconstruction in Judah to be declared to the Jewish exiles in Babylon: “This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it.” Why? So that the Jews might regain political independence? No, nothing like that. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, . . . For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.”—Ezek. 36:22-24, 35, 36.
Jehovah’s purpose was to regather his name-people to their homeland that they might reconstruct the temple and restore the true worship of Jehovah God in the land. This for his name’s sake, that his name might be vindicated in the sight of heathen nations. Accordingly, shortly after Darius and Cyrus overthrew Babylon the Jewish exiles were permitted to return to Jerusalem, armed with a commission from King Cyrus to rebuild the temple there. (Ezra 1:1-4) Hence it was that in 537 B.C. Zerubbabel and nearly 50,000 Jews trekked from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Opposition from neighboring adversaries, those religious hybrids called “Samaritans”, soon flared up and succeeded in halting the building work. They maneuvered the slapping of an official Persian ban on the Theocratic reconstruction work, and for nearly sixteen years work on the temple was at a standstill. It was at this crucial point of time and state of matters that Jehovah raised up his prophet Haggai, in the second year of Darius II, in 520 B.C.—Ezra 4:1 to 5:1.
Little is known about Haggai personally. His name means “festive”. He probably returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel, in 537 B.C. He started prophesying “in the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month”; his prophesyings come in four brief discourses on three different days, and the last one is dated the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month in the second year of Darius. (Hag. 1:1; 2:1, 10, 20) This means his prophetic career was short, only three months and twenty-four days. Short, but effective! For sixteen years no work had been done on the temple, and some of the Jews returned from captivity selfishly looked on outward conditions and said: “It is not the time for us to come, the time for Jehovah’s house to be built.” But to refute this class whom some moderns might call “morale weakeners” Haggai declared:
“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your ceiled houses, while this house lieth waste? Now therefore thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith Jehovah. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith Jehovah of hosts. Because of my house that lieth waste, while ye run every man to his own house. Therefore for your sake the heavens withhold the dew, and the earth withholdeth its fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the grain, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labor of the hands.”—Hag. 1:1-11, Am. Stan. Ver.
Haggai’s words sank deep into the hearts of the people and their leaders Zerubbabel and Joshua. In less than four weeks the temple builders had reorganized themselves and the work was resumed, right in the teeth of the imperial ban! (Hag. 1:12-15) But as promised, Jehovah was with the builders and blessed their zeal and fearlessness by causing Darius II to renew the decree of Cyrus authorizing the work. The malicious Samaritan enemies were squelched!
Haggai’s second discourse (Hag 2:1-9) came less than a month after resumption of the work. This time it was to beat down any propaganda of any old-timers that the new temple was disappointing when compared with the glory of Solomon’s temple; these zeal-weakeners complained that the new temple being built was as nothing in comparison with the one Nebuchadnezzar had leveled. But in his discourse Haggai assured Zerubbabel and Joshua and the remnant that “the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former”, for Jehovah will “shake all nations” and the “desire of all nations shall come” to the temple.
Two months and three days later Haggai delivers his third discourse, and in it queries the priests concerning the past uncleanness of the nation, calls upon them to consider the plague of crop failures that ravished the land while the temple work stood still, and promises blessing from Jehovah God in view of the renewed building activity. (Hag. 2:10-19) His fourth and final discourse recorded was delivered on that same day, but was addressed exclusively to Governor Zerubbabel, as follows:
“I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the 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. 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.”—Hag. 2:20-23, Am. Stan. Ver.
Thus in his closing prophecy Haggai foretold the time when Jehovah of hosts would shake this evil world of Satan, would overthrow its kingdoms and governments, and would set up in Kingdom power the Greater Zerubbabel, Christ Jesus.