The book of Haggai contains important messages delivered by the prophet Haggai calling the people to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem after their return from exile in Babylon. Haggai prophesied during the period when Zerubbabel was governor of Judah and Joshua was the high priest. This was around 520 BC, about 18 years after the first exiles had returned under the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia.
The people had rebuilt the altar and laid the foundation of the temple, but the work had stopped. Haggai delivered four short messages from the Lord over a period of four months encouraging the leaders and people to complete the rebuilding of the temple. Haggai chapter 2 contains the third and fourth messages.
Key Takeaways from Haggai Chapter 2:
- God promises His presence and glory in the second temple.
- The second temple will be filled with greater glory than Solomon’s temple.
- Holiness is not transferred by touch but by obedience to God’s word.
- From this day God will bless His people abundantly.
- Zerubbabel is chosen as the Lord’s signet ring, receiving authority from God.
- The Lord will overthrow the kingdoms of the nations and make Zerubbabel His servant.
In this commentary, we will examine Haggai chapter 2 verse by verse to understand the background, meaning and applications for us today. Let’s begin by reading Haggai 2:1-9.
Commentary on Haggai 2:1-9
In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying: “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 who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing? Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’
“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:1-9 NKJV)
This message came about 2 months after Haggai’s first prophecy which led to the rebuilding of the temple. The work had been going on for about a month now.
But some of the older people who had seen Solomon’s temple were disappointed that this temple was smaller and less majestic (Ezra 3:12). So God sends a message of encouragement through Haggai, asking the people to be strong and affirming His presence with them.
God reminds them of His covenant and promises to fill the temple with His glory, the Desire of All Nations. This is a messianic prophecy pointing to Christ, the incarnate glory of God, entering the temple (Malachi 3:1). Though not as impressive externally, in God’s eyes the glory of the second temple would exceed that of Solomon’s temple because of the Messiah’s coming.
This shows us that outward appearances are not as vital as God’s presence. The value of anything we do for God is not determined by its visible splendor but by the spirit, motives and obedience behind it. If God is present, that’s true glory and success.
Commentary on Haggai 2:10-19
On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Now, ask the priests concerning the law, saying, “If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?” ’ ”
Then the priests answered and said, “No.”
And Haggai said, “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?”
So the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.”
Then Haggai answered and said, “ ‘So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.
‘And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord— since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty. I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me,’ says the Lord.
‘Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid—consider it: Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.’ ” (Haggai 2:10-19 NKJV)
Two months after the previous prophecy, God gives Haggai a message using an object lesson about holiness and uncleanness.
The priests confirm that holiness is not transferred by physical contact – carrying holy meat in one’s clothing does not make other things holy. But uncleanness is transferred by touch.
Applying this, God says their offerings have been defiled because of their spiritual uncleanness – their disobedience and neglect of God’s house. Outward observance of religious rituals cannot make their offerings holy when their hearts remain far from God.
He reminds them of His discipline through poor harvests. But now He promises to bless them from this day since they have obeyed His call to rebuild the temple. Their priorities are back in line with God’s priorities.
For us today, holiness comes not by association with religious objects or rituals but by obedience to God’s word. As we make His priorities our priorities, He blesses the work of our hands. Outward religion without true devotion is worthless.
Commentary on Haggai 2:20-23
And again the word of the Lord came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying:
‘I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots And those who ride in them; The horses and their riders shall come down, Every one by the sword of his brother.’
“In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the Lord, ‘and will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:20-23 NKJV)
The same day, God gives a personal message to Zerubbabel, the governor. Zerubbabel was the grandson of King Jehoiachin and heir to the throne of David (1 Chronicles 3:17-19).
God promises Zerubbabel authority by declaring He will make him like a signet ring. The signet ring was used by kings to seal documents and decrees (Esther 8:8).
God would “shake” the nations politically and militarily. We see this fulfilled in the crumbling of the Persian empire. But Zerubbabel would be established like God’s signet ring, receiving authority in this shaking of nations.
As David’s descendant, Zerubbabel foreshadows Christ as the eternal King. The author of Hebrews applies this shaking of earthly powers to point us to our unshakable heavenly kingdom in Christ (Hebrews 12:26-28).
For us today, this reminds us that amidst the shakings of nations and earthly powers, God remains sovereign. His kingdom is unshakable. As we align ourselves under God’s authority, we become firmly established regardless of circumstance.
Applications for Today
Having gone through this commentary on Haggai chapter 2, what are some key applications for us today?
- God’s presence and glory in our lives is not dependent on external appearances, but on our obedience and devotion to Him. The glory of the second temple exceeded Solomon’s temple because God came to dwell there.
- True holiness comes through obedience to God’s word, not outward religious observances disconnected from an inner heart change. We can’t “catch” holiness through contact with holy things if our hearts remain unchanged.
- As we realign our priorities with God’s priorities, He blesses our lives abundantly. When the people obeyed God’s call to rebuild the temple, He removed the curse and promised blessing. When we seek first God’s kingdom, all we need is added to us (Matthew 6:33).
- God remains sovereign over the shakings of the nations and powers of this world. His kingdom remains unshakable. As we submit to His authority, He establishes us firmly like a signet ring that cannot be moved.
May this study of Haggai Chapter 2 encourage us to wholeheartedly obey God’s word, seek His presence and remain aligned with His eternal kingdom purpose. He has promised to fill our lives with His enduring glory, peace and blessing as we walk in devotion to Him.