Haggai Chapter 1: Building of the Temple

Jan 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Haggai, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Haggai Chapter 1: Building of the Temple

Hag. 1:1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,

Haggai wrote in the second year of Darius the Persian (not Darius the Mede), who reigned after Cyrus and Cambyses. The Prophet Daniel had probably deceased by this time, for the last record we have of him was in connection with the beginning of the reign of Cyrus.

In his book, Daniel spoke about two horns in reference to the Medo-Persian Empire. The horn symbolizing the Persian part of the empire grew higher. As time went on, the Mede portion died out altogether except for the territory that was incorporated into the Persian Empire. Incidentally, “Darius” was a title like “Caesar” and “Pharaoh.”

In approximate terms, Haggai wrote about a hundred years after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. Evidently, he started his ministry in the second year of Darius the Persian. The “word of the LORD” came through him unto Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and unto Joshua, the high priest. In antitype, both Joshua and Zerubbabel represent Jesus, for he will be both Priest and King. The name Haggai means “feast,” for a lot of condensed information was said by the Lord through him.

Hag. 1:2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.

Hag. 1:3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,

At first glance, the people’s saying, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built” seems like a contradiction because the time setting was some years after Cyrus the Persian had issued the decree for the Jews who so desired to freely go back to their homeland to rebuild the Temple. Since Cyrus did not authorize the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, as Isaiah seems to indicate, the Pastor properly interpreted the Hebrew word ir to represent the “court” of the Temple (Isa. 45:13). Thus the returning Jews could build a Temple and a courtyard at this time, but not the city. The Pastor’s reasoning harmonizes, for the last thing Cyrus would do after the Jews had been in Babylonian captivity would be to give them permission to return to build and fortify their capital. Subsequently, many years later, the building under Ezra was stopped because enemies sent word back to Persia that the Jews were starting to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 4:24).

Thus Cyrus gave authorization for the Temple to be built. “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people?

The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up” (2 Chron. 36:22,23).

In other words, the Jews had gotten a miraculous pronouncement by Cyrus not only to be released from bondage but also to return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple, yet they said, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.” Moreover, Cyrus had published the pronouncement throughout all his kingdom by heralds; that is, a trumpet was blown, and the pronouncement was given verbally as well as in writing. Therefore, the real reason the people made the statement that the time had not come to rebuild Jehovah’s Temple was because they wanted to build and ornament their own houses first, feeling that was the reasonable, pragmatic approach. Their thinking was reasonable according to the flesh, but instead they should have first taken care of the Lord’s house. With regard to this matter, God stirred up Haggai the prophet to make a pronouncement. In addition, He stirred up Zechariah so that there were two witnesses. Thus the people had no excuse for their actions. Cyrus issued the decree in 536 BC, and now, a little over a decade later, nothing had been done about the Temple. Not even the altar had been constructed. Thus Haggai was stirred up to begin his ministry. In fact, even after the altar was built, the people were slack and had to be prodded.

Comment: Few Jews, relatively speaking, returned to Israel in faith following the decree of Cyrus—only about 50,000.

Reply: Yes, and one might ask why the numbers are slightly different in two separate accounts. The number of Jews who actually left Babylon varied two years later because of deaths and births that had taken place.

In summary, the setting of Haggai’s ministry was not too long after Cyrus issued the decree, yet during those years, nothing had been started on the Temple because the people were first building their personal homes. They used what appeared to be rational reasoning, saying, “The time is not come to build God’s house.” From God’s standpoint, this reasoning was irrational.

Hag. 1:4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?

“Ceiled houses” were houses finished and decorated on the inside. The people made excuses for not building the Temple, such as the fact that living conditions were austere. (Later on, when they got around to rebuilding the city, they had to do it with a sword in one hand and a shovel in the other.) The Jews used their temporal deprivations as excuses for the time not being right to rebuild the Temple. Actually, however, these conditions were a test of their zeal.

Hag. 1:5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.

Hag. 1:6 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.

The people should have been aware that something was wrong because of the adverse happenings. Everything they did resulted in problems, so even for the natural man, the logical question should have been, “What have I done wrong?” Whether morally or physically wrong, something was not normal. The Jews particularly should have been influenced by signs because they were brought up to believe that if obedient, they would prosper and even get a lengthening of days. Conversely, disobedience brought punishments, sickness, poor crops, etc.

Therefore, the Jews back there should not have been oblivious to what was happening.

Spiritually speaking, the Lord’s people would be getting very troubling experiences. In such conditions in life, the Christian should go to the throne of grace and do self-examination, asking, “Why are these things happening?” One who is in a spiritually bad climate must leave that environment if he wants to prosper and grow. For instance, if a bartender is called and consecrates, he has to forsake that profession. If one is an active general in the Army, he should submit his papers for retirement because friendship with the world is enmity toward God (James 4:4). One cannot be a success in the world without being a friend of the world.

The Jews had a lot of problems, but they failed to associate the problems with the fact that they were not zealous enough in rebuilding the Temple. Moses had predicted that the Israelites would be successful and would prosper temporally in crops, in warfare, and in their personal lives if they obeyed God’s commandments. Disobedience and slothfulness would bring adverse circumstances. Haggai told the people their problems were occurring because they were not rebuilding the Lord’s house. Advice for the Christian is to seek first the Kingdom of heaven, and then the other things will be added (Matt. 6:33).

In short, the Jews were given providential circumstances to alert them, and Haggai was reiterating those circumstances to show the reason for them, namely, their lack of zeal and their neglect to follow the Lord’s instructions to rebuild His Temple.

Hag. 1:7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.

Hag. 1:8 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 the LORD.

Hag. 1:9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

Hag. 1:10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.

Hag. 1:11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, 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 labour of the hands.

“Consider your ways,” which was another way of saying, “Do self-examination,” is mentioned twice (see verse 5). Jehovah was responsible, and properly so, for the problem wherein everything seemed to go wrong in regard to material prosperity. Verses 1-11 are a prelude, giving the circumstances that existed, before the Book of Haggai goes into more substantive detail.

Hag. 1:12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.

Hag. 1:13 Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.

Hag. 1:14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,

Hag. 1:15 In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

In verse 1, the “word of the LORD” came on the first day of the sixth month of the second year of Darius. Now it was the 24th day of the same month and year. Thus it took only a little more than three weeks for the remnant of Jews to respond. In other words, the response was immediate, and God’s spirit came on (1) Zerubbabel, the “governor,” or civil prince; (2) Joshua, the high priest; and (3) the people. However, it took a prophet, speaking in the name of Jehovah, to light the fuse, as it were, to bring this energy.

At this late date, in the second year of Darius the Persian, the Jews began to rebuild the Temple in earnest at the prompting of the Prophet Haggai. This is one of the rare instances in Scripture where the people obeyed the prophet, and he encouraged them. No doubt he exhorted along very practical lines, and the people could not deny the lesson and advice. It was only 23 days after Haggai gave the advice that the people began to act. God stirred up the spirit of Joshua, Zerubbabel, and the people with the result that they had a mind to work.

Comment: The remnant of Jews did introspective work on themselves, which was necessary in order to be stirred up by God’s Spirit.

Reply: Yes, they began to build the Temple after the Lord stirred up their spirit.

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