A Time To Encourage Haggai 2:1-9
Haggai’s message had stirred Judah from idleness. The sound of workmen removing sixty years of rubble, refacing stones and beginning to build on the foundation laid sixteen years earlier filled Jerusalem. But less than a month after the work had begun, it was interrupted by three religious feasts on Israel’s calendar. In the seventh month, the month of Tishri (September-October), there would be the Feast of Trumpets on the first day, the Day of Atonement on the tenth day and the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day through the twenty-first day.
Knowing such delays could dampen the people’s enthusiastic drive to complete the task, Haggai stepped forward with a message of encouragement from the Lord. He delivered his second message in the “seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month” (v. 1), the final day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34-44) which would have fallen on October 17, 520 B.C.
The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) is also called the Feast of Ingathering, the final religious celebration on Israel’s calendar. It commemorated the end of the fall harvest, the ingathering of crops and remembrance of God’s protection during Israel’s forty years in the wilderness when the people lived in tents.
A number of rituals accompanied the seven-day feast. For seven days people would live in booths constructed of palm, willow and leaf tree branches and decorated with fruit.
There was the daily procession to the Gihon Spring where the priest would fill a gold pitcher with water, return to the Temple and pour it upon the altar. This was done as a reminder of how God supernaturally provided water for Israel during her forty years in the wilderness (Num. 20:9-11; Ps. 78:15-16).
The feast ended with all the people gathered in Jerusalem for a religious festival. This would not have been a joyul festival in 520 B.C., for drought had destroyed their crops, and the Temple was not completed, a grim reminder of the destruction they had suffered during the Babylonian invasion. The prophet’s message of encouragement would be like water to a thirsty soul for those who were weary and discouraged.
COMPARING THE TEMPLES
Great hope filled the elders of Judah who envisioned a temple possessing the glories they once gazed upon before their captivity. But as the walls went up, the people’s spirits came down, for Zerubbabel’s Temple paled in splendor to that of Solomon’s.
Knowing that discouragement was beginning to set in, Haggai asked three rhetorical questions which would reveal the peoples’ true attitude towards the Temple they were constructing. First, “Who is left among you that saw this house in its first glory?” (v. 3), asked Haggai.
Many would have witnessed the beauty of Solomon’s Temple which had been destroyed sixty-six years earlier; possibly Haggai was one of them. The “glory” of Solomon’s Temple would have been something to behold. It was twice the size of the Tabernacle: 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. It was strikingly beautiful in appearance because of its white limestone, cedar and gold exterior. The entire interior of the Temple was covered with cedar (walls) and pine (floor) boards, all overlaid with gold. The holy place was 60 feet long, decorated with carved gourds, cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. The altar of incense was made of cedar and overlaid with gold Gold chains were hung in the holy place across the doors that led into the holy of holies. The holy place contained ten golden lampstands and ten gold tables of showbread.
The holy of holies was a 30-foot cube, all overlaid with gold. Two gigantic cherubim, made of olive wood and covered with gold, extended the length of the room with their outstretched wings touching at the tips. The walls of the Temple were decorated with carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers; all the doors were decorated like the walls (1 Ki. 6:1-35).3 Years ago it was estimated that over $20,000,000 worth of gold was used just to cover the holy of holies.2
One writer stated, “The Babylonian Talmud indicated that Zerubbabel’s Temple lacked five glories which were present in Solomon’s Temple: (1) the ark of the covenant; (2) the holy fire; (3) the shekinah glory; (4) the spirit of prophecy (the Holy Spirit); and (5) the Urim and Thummim.”‘
The second question, “And how do ye see it now?” (v. 3), was self-evident. Obviously they considered it inferior to Solomon’s Temple.
The third question provided the answer: “Is it not in your eyes in comparison with it as nothing?” (v. 3).
The expected answer is yes! Response to the completed Temple would have been similar to the response at the dedication of the foundation. Those who had not seen the glory of Solomon’s Temple would have praised the Lord; but the older men, who had lived before the Temple’s destruction, wept loudly and profusely because Zerubbabel’s Temple was nothing in comparison to Solomon’s (Ezra 3:10-13).
COURAGE FOR THE TASK
Haggai encouraged the people to finish the project using the words “be strong” (v. 4) or take courage. The people needed encouragement to complete the task, for they feared opposition like that which arose during the laying of the foundation.
Sixteen years earlier, opposition had arisen from Tatnai and Shetharbozenai (Ezra 5:3) who questioned the right of Judah to commence the reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple. Tatnai had written to King Darius opposing the construction (Ezra 5:6-17). Darius searched the archives for documentation of Judah’s right to build. A scroll was found confirming Judah’s right, and Darius ordered the Temple to be completed, warning Tatnai not to interfere with the work (Ezra 6: 1-12). Obviously this opposition had ceased, since Haggai made no mention of it.
The words “be strong” were followed by the command “and work” (v. 4). David had encouraged Solomon in like manner when he committed the original Temple project to him ( 1 Chr. 28: 10, 20). Any project so massive would require strength and courage.
When the torch of leadership was passed from Moses to Joshua, God gave the same encouraging word to him. Three times God commanded Joshua to “be strong and of good courage” (Josh. 1:6-7, 9). He was to be strong and courageous because of God’s promise, “for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land which I swore unto their fathers” (Josh. 1:6). He was to be strong and courageous in obeying God’s law, by meditating on the Word of God and manifesting it through his life; for in so doing the Lord would prosper him (Josh. 1:7). He was to be strong and courageous because God’s presence would go with him (Josh. 1:9) to provide victory over Israel’s enemies.
In like manner, Judah was to be strong and courageous in building the Temple, for God promised to help her finish the task as He had Joshua. God took pleasure in the Temple’s completion because it would grotify Him (1:9). Like Joshua, God promised to prosper Judah if she obeyed His Word by completing the Temple. As God had promised that His presence would be with Joshua, so He would be with Judah as she worked on the Temple, for God said, “I am with you” (v. 4). God promises to be with all those who follow the faith formula given to Joshua.
Judah was to trust the Lord for two reasons. First, God promised to be with them just as He had covenanted when delivering them from their Egyptian slavery (v. 5). He had covenanted to shepherd them forty years in the wilderness and to give them the land of Canaan as well. Second, as the Spirit of God was with them coming out of Egypt (Isa. 63:11-14), so He would remain among them (v. 5) in building the Temple. Therefore, the words “fear not” (v. 5) should undergird them with the needed confidence to finish the Temple’s construction.
The Christian who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and yielded to His direction can be assured of God’s presence and power to undertake any task he has been called to perform.
God said, in “a little while…I will shake the heavens,…earth,…sea,…dry land; And…all nations” (w. 6-7a). The words “a little while” are not speaking about an immediate but an imminent shaking of the earth, meaning it could happen at any time.
Just when will this shaking take place? Some commentators tie the shaking with verse five and say it refers to God’s power in delivering Israel from Egypt through the Red Sea (Ex. 14) and the manifestation of His power before the people when Mount Sinai quaked (Ex. 19:16-20). Others see the phrase as referring to God’s stirring Darius (Ezra 6:6-15) to supply help and gifts to Ezra in order for Judah to build the Temple. Still others believe the shaking has reference to God’s bring ing future judgment upon the Persians, Greeks and Romans. But the context of this passage is futuristic and has reference to Messiah’s Second Coming when God will shake “the heavens and earth” (2:21; Joel 3:16; Zech. 14:4-5; Mt. 24:29; Rev. 16:18, 20) and destroy Gentile world rule (2:22; Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45). The writer of Hebrews interpreted Haggai 2:6 in the context of God’s shaking the earth and nations at the Second Coming of Christ (Heb. 12:26-27). He went on to say that after the Millennium, God will once again shake the heavens and the earth which will bring about the total destruction of the universe (2 Pet. 3: 10, 12; Rev. 20:11); then will appear a new heaven and earth (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1).
Added to the difficulty of this section is the precise interpretation of “the desire of all nations shall come” (v. 7). The word “desire” has been translated personally with reference to the Messiah and impersonally referring to “desirable things” (i.e. treasure, wealth). Controversy over the correct interpretation has revolved around the use of a plural verb “come,” with a singular noun “desire.” But even after a thorough study of the grammatical problem, there is no conclusive interpretation agreed to by scholars. Since verse eight has reference to silver and gold, most modem scholars believe that “desire” has reference to the nations bringing their wealth to the Millennial Temple.
Herbert Wolf may have had the true interpretation when he wrote, “Ultimately it does apply to the gathering of the treasures of nations after the Second Coming of Christ…but it can also refer to the ‘treasure’ or ‘desire of nations,’4 that is, the Messiah. He is the only One who could fulfill their desire for peace on earth (2:9).
Haggai went on to reveal that God would “fill this house with glory” (v. 7) and “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former” (v. 9). The prophet is contrasting the two “glories” not the two temples.
How should one interpret the word “glory”? Does it have reference to the material beauty of the Temple or God’s presence in the Temple? Both can be seen since verse eight makes reference to the material glory and verse nine mentions God’s glory, but the thrust of the passage makes reference to God’s glory in the Temple.
Haggai was saying that the “glory” of Zerubbabel’s Temple will be greater than that of Solomon’s! But how can this be, since Zerubbabel’s Temple did not possess the material beauty nor the shekinah glory? First, God viewed the various temples constructed throughout Israel’s history as one continuous temple. Herod’s Temple was not considered another temple but a continuation of Zerubbabel’s.
Second, glory came to Herod’s Temple in the person of Christ at His dedication (Lk. 2:21-24 ). He was greater than the Temple (Mt. 12:6), greater than Solomon (Mt. 12:42), and His glory will one day fill the Millennial Temple (Rev. 21:22-23).
Third, God said, “in this place [Jerusalem and the Temple] will I give peace” (v. 9). This peace will come to fruition when Christ. “The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:5), comes to establish it at His Second Coming, for peace will flow like a river from Jerusalem to the whole world (Isa. 66:12).
Judah was to realize that although Zerubbabel’s Temple did not possess the material beauty of Solomon’s, their work was of great importance. It forged a link between temples in which Messiah’s glory and peace would ultimately be manifested in the Kingdom age.
Therefore, the people should do their work heartily as unto the Lord.
Like Haggai, Jesus used the Feast of Tabernacles to deliver a stirring revelation of comfort and encouragement to Judah. John wrote: “In the last day, that great day of the feast. Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me…out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:37-38). He was saying, I am the One who provides the water of salvation to all who thirst Those who come and drink (believe in Christ) will be given eternal life, and out of their heart will flow rivers of living water, that is, the ministry of the· Holy Spirit will be a source of strength, guidance, power and peace in the believer’s life.
The Christian is working on a “temple” for God’s glory, but it is not made of stone and cedar. The church body is the temple of the Holy Spirit in which God’s glory resides (1 Cor. 6:19). In order for God’s glory to be manifested through the body, (1) all the rubble of sin must be removed (1 Cor. 6:15-20); (2) each stone (Christian) within the fellowship must be continually shaped into Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29); and (3) the building constructed of gold, silver and precious stones must be properly laid on the foundation of Christ (1 Cor. 3:11-12).
What type of builder are you? Are you a shoddy builder using inferior materials, careless and inept in your service for Christ, producing discouragement within the Church? God wants us to be master builders constructing with good materials, careful in our service which is of great encouragement to others and will glorify God.
- Thomas L. Constable, The Bible Knowledge Commentary.· 1 Kings (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), pp. 499, 501.
- Charles Lee Feinberg, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai and Malachi (New York: American Board of Missions to the Jews, Inc.,1951), p. 89.
- Jerry Falwell, Liberty Bible Commentary.·Haggai (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), p. 1788.
- Herbert Wolf, Haggai; Malachi.·Rededication and Renewal (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), p. 37.