Your losing streak is about to end
It’s not as bad as it looks1Another month later, on October 21st, the LORD gave Haggai another message. He said: 2Take this message to the people, to Judah’s governor Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and to the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak. Tell them this:
3Some of you have been around long enough to remember what my house used to look like. What do you think of the Temple now? Does it look like anything more than a pile of rocks? 4But don’t be discouraged, Zerubbabel. You as well, dear high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak. People of Judah, be brave. I’m the LORD of everyone, and I am with you. So, get back to work. 5In Egypt I promised that I’d stay with you. My Spirit never left. So don’t be afraid.
Shaking free some silver and gold6I’m the LORD of everyone and here’s what I’m going to do. In a little while there’s going to be a whole lot of shaking going on. I’m going to shake this world like you’d shake an olive tree at harvesttime. I’ll shake the sky from high to low. I’ll shake the sea. I’ll shake the land. 7And then I’ll shake the nations till their treasures fall into your lap. I’m the LORD of everyone. I’m going to turn this pile of rocks into a magnificent Temple.
8Silver is mine to give. So is the gold. I’m the LORD of everyone and everything. 9The Temple was once an awesome sight. But wait till you see the next one. It’s going to be even better. The Temple will attract a lot of wealth.
Building the Temple won’t make you good10The LORD gave Haggai another message on December 18, 520 BC. The LORD said:
11Tell the people this comes from the LORD of everyone. Ask the priests to answer a couple questions.
12Let’s say someone carries sacred meat to a sacrifice. They’ve wrapped this holy offering in cloth, but the cloth brushes against some food. It could have been bread, stew, wine, olive oil, or whatever. Would that brush of the cloth turn the other food holy—ritually clean enough to present as an offering at the Temple? The priests answered no.
13Haggai said, “Next question. Let’s say there’s a person who’s ritually unclean because he touched a corpse. He comes into contact with any of this food. Would he contaminate the food? Would it become ritually unclean, too?” The priests answered yes.
14Haggai said, “The LORD says that’s what I think of this nation and anything the people try to do for me. It’s useless to me because it’s unclean.
Everything changes today15This is the day we turn it all around. Remember what it was like before you started rebuilding the Temple, laying the foundation? 16When you thought you could harvest 20 bags of wheat, all you got were 10. When you hoped to fill 50 jars of wine, you managed 20.
17That was me. I’m LORD and I did it. I hit you with heat, mold, and hail. But you didn’t get the message. You didn’t come back to me.
18Mark this day on your calendar: October 20, 520 BC. It’s the turnaround day. You finished the Temple foundation. Now watch what happens next. 19This isn’t harvesttime. So, nothing’s going on in the fields yet. You haven’t planted the grain seed. There aren’t any grapes on the vine. There aren’t any figs, pomegranates, or olives in the trees. But from this day on, I’m going to give you reasons to smile. I’ll bless the work you do.
Zerubbabel, not a king, but God’s man20The LORD gave Haggai a second message one month later, on December 18.
21The LORD said: Tell Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, that I’m about to shake heaven and earth. The world’s going to look different when I’m done.
22I’m going to overthrow the kings and take the “strong” out of strongman. I’ll flip their chariots with the riders still in them and I’ll throw the cavalry off their horses. They’re all going to die in battle.
23I’ve chosen Zerubbabel. He’s my servant, the son of Shealtiel, and the ruler of my people. He’ll represent me in this world. He’s my signet ring, the official stamp of my authority.
October 17, 520 BC. This was the 21st day of the Jewish month of Tishri, also known as Ethanim. The Jews had been working on the Temple for three months. Many scholars say Haggai’s message reads like an attempt to encourage and motivate a discouraged group of people. Perhaps they felt as though they couldn’t match the grandeur of the long-lasting Temple Solomon built four centuries earlier.
Another prophet explains that the Jews were afraid of Samaritans (Ezra 4:4). While the Jews had been living in exile in Iraq, outsiders moved into Jewish lands and married some of the Jews left behind. They developed what Jews would call a twisted version of the Jewish faith and a heavily edited version of the Jewish Bible. They took the name of the land, Samaria, and became known as Samaritans. Samaria was a territory north of Jerusalem. Samaritans revered the city of Shechem, at the head of the valley between their sacred mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. Samaritans did not want the Jews to resurrect their nation, rebuild walled cities, and eventually threaten them. So, they tried to stop the work. Nehemiah tells part of that story in the Bible book that took his name. Samaritans plotted to assassinate him, to keep him from rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 6:1). They couldn’t get to him.
More literally, “year two, month nine, day 24 in the reign of Darius.” See also note for 1:1.
The messages seem to be this: The Jewish people rebuilding the Temple are unclean. And anything they touch becomes unclean, including the stones they’ve used to lay the foundation for the Temple. So, perhaps God was telling the Jewish people that it’s not enough to build something as holy as the Temple, considered God’s home on earth among his people. The people had to be holy, too. Apparently, the idea is to get them to live by the laws God gave them. When they do, God is supposed to bless them with peace and prosperity. It’s written into the contract between the two (Deuteronomy 28:3-14). So are hard times for disobedience. See the end of that chapter.
See note for 2:10.
A king’s signet ring became an official stamp of the king’s approval. It was like having the authority to sign royal documents, contracts, and state letters with the king’s name. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave his ring to Joseph: “Pharaoh took off his signet ring that he used to press his sign onto royal documents. He put it on Joseph’s hand” (Genesis 41:42).
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