Assurance of God’s Presence. 1On the twenty-first day of the seventh month,#Twenty-first day of the seventh month: October 17, 520 B.C. the word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet: 2Speak to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak, and to the remnant of the people:
3Who is left among you#Who is left among you: i.e., who is old enough to have seen the first Temple prior to its destruction in 587 B.C.? Compare the reaction of priests who were alive then (Ezr 3:12–13).
who saw this house in its former glory?
And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem like nothing in your eyes?#Ezr 3:10–13.
4Now be strong, Zerubbabel—oracle of the Lord—
be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, high priest,
Be strong, all you people of the land—oracle of the Lord—
and work! For I am with you—oracle of the Lord of hosts.
5This is the commitment I made to you
when you came out of Egypt.
My spirit remains in your midst;
do not fear!
6For thus says the Lord of hosts:#These verses emphasize that the total fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel is on the horizon. Such an eschatological event, which will shake the nations (v. 6; cf. v. 21), finds an echo not only in the political revolts in the Persian empire in 521 but also in the formative events of Israel’s history (Ex 19:18; Jgs 5:4; Ps 68:8–9) when God intervened on behalf of the Israelites. The bringing of treasures of all the nations (v. 7) to Jerusalem recalls the visionary passages of Isaiah of the pilgrimage of all nations to Jerusalem (Is 2:2–4; 60:6–9).
In just a little while,
I will shake the heavens and the earth,#Heb 12:26.
the sea and the dry land.
7I will shake all the nations,
so that the treasures of all the nations will come in.
And I will fill this house with glory—
says the Lord of hosts.#Is 60:7–11.
8Mine is the silver and mine the gold—oracle of the Lord of hosts.
9Greater will be the glory of this house#1 Kgs 8:11.
the latter more than the former—says the Lord of hosts;
And in this place I will give you peace—#Peace: after God’s presence or glory has returned to the Temple, Jerusalem will receive the treasures from the nations, making the Temple more glorious than ever; and from that place God will extend shalom, a peace which embraces prosperity, well-being, harmony.
oracle of the Lord of hosts.
Priestly Ruling with Prophetic Interpretation.#A request for a priestly ruling (Heb. torah) is made in the form of a dialogue between Haggai and the priests. Explicit examples where such priestly rulings are quoted are rare in prophetic books. The interchange illustrates an essential role of the priesthood: the interpretation of God’s law (cf. Lv 10:9–11). 10On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month in the second year#Twenty-fourth day of the ninth month in the second year: December 18, 520 B.C. of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Haggai the prophet: 11Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests for a ruling:#Ask the priests for a ruling: i.e., a determination on whether defilement and sanctity can be physically transmitted. The priests are expected to make a legal decision. The answer is that sanctity cannot be transmitted (v. 12) but defilement can (v. 13). Priestly duties are enumerated in Lv 10:10–20. 12If someone carries sanctified meat in the fold of a garment and the fold touches bread, soup, wine, oil, or any other food, do they become sanctified? “No,” the priests answered. 13Then Haggai asked: “If a person defiled from contact with a corpse touches any of these, do they become defiled?” The priests answered, “They become defiled.”#Lv 22:4–7. 14Then Haggai replied:
So is this people,#So is this people: the prophet’s interpretation is that the restored sacrifices were not acceptable because the people’s behavior was tainted. and so is this nation
in my sight—oracle of the Lord—
And so is all the work of their hands;
what they offer there is defiled.
15Now reflect,#This prophecy is retrospective and should be read with 1:5–11, a description of the conditions of economic deprivation before the rebuilding of the Temple. from this day forward—before you set stone to stone in the temple of the Lord, 16what was your experience?
When one went to a heap of grain for twenty ephahs,
there were only ten;
When one went to a vat to draw fifty ephahs,#Ephahs: see note on Is 5:10.
there were only twenty.#Hos 4:3a.
17I struck you, and all the work of your hands,
with searing wind, blight, and hail,
yet you did not return to me—oracle of the Lord.#Am 4:9.
18Reflect from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month.#Twenty-fourth day of the ninth month: December 18, 520 B.C., the date of the refounding of the Temple (vv. 10, 20), the central date in Haggai. From the day on which the temple of the Lord was founded, reflect!
19Is there still seed in the storehouse?
Have the vine, the fig, the pomegranate,
and the olive tree still not borne fruit?
From this day, I will bless you.#I will bless you: from the day of the refounding of the Temple, agricultural plenty and fertility are assured. This link between temple and prosperity is part of the ancient Near Eastern temple ideology that underlies Haggai and Zec 1–8.
Future Hope.#This final oracle of hope is uttered on the day of the refounding of the Temple. Unlike the other oracles it is addressed to Zerubbabel alone, who, as a Davidic descendant, will have a servant role in God’s future Israelite kingdom to be established when God intervenes to overthrow the nations. 20The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month:#Twenty-fourth day of the month: December 18, 520 B.C. (as in v. 18). 21Speak to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah:
I will shake the heavens and the earth;
22I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms,
and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations.
I will overthrow the chariots and their riders,
and the riders with their horses
will fall by each other’s swords.#Sir 49:11.
23On that day—oracle of the Lord of hosts—I will take you, my servant, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel—oracle of the Lord—and I will make you like a signet ring,#Like a signet ring: this promise to Zerubbabel reverses the punishment of his grandfather (Jer 22:23–25). A signet is a ring or other instrument used to mark documents or materials with the equivalent of an official signature. A lower official could thus be authorized to act on behalf of a higher official. Like a signet ring, Zerubbabel represents the Lord. for I have chosen you—oracle of the Lord of hosts.#Zec 6:12–13.