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The Prophecy of Haggai - Christogenea Internet Radio 09-25-2015
In the opening passage of Daniel chapter 9 we read this from the prophet: “1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; 2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” This is where Daniel began that prayer which resulted in his receiving the vision of the 70 Weeks' Kingdom. But when Daniel had written, he was not informing us that the 70 years desolation of Jerusalem which were prophesied in Jeremiah were completed, but only that he had come to understand them. That is because it was also prophesied that within the 70 years something else was to happen, which was the destruction of the kingdom of Babylon. When Babylon fell, Daniel understood that the 70 years should be taken literally, and that since God is true, that Jerusalem would also soon be restored. That is why Daniel had made such a prayer in the first year of the king he calls Darius.
As a digression, it must be explained that the Greek writers took the titles adopted as names which were used by the various Persian kings and had used Hellenized versions of those names as labels for particular Persian kings, so the effect is that they are perceived by casual English readers to be proper given names, which is not always the case. The Greek usage continues to prevail to this very day, and the personal names of various Persian kings are not even known because in their own inscriptions they are called by these titles which they adopted. However it can be established that the name Artaxerxes evidently meant in Persian “he whose rule is through truth” and Darius evidently meant “he who holds the good” and therefore they are indeed only titles, and were truly not personal given names. With that it may become evident that the Hebrew usage of these terms complied with that of the Persians, and not of the Greeks, so labels such as Darius or Ahasuerus (which transliterates to Xerxes) were used for rulers other than those which were most commonly referenced by those same terms among the Greek writers. There is evidence in the historical books of Scripture that this is so, and we discussed it at length in an article at Christogenea titled Notes Concerning Daniel's 70 Weeks Prophecy. There we explained that Ahasuerus was a title which was even used to refer at different times to Nehemiah and to Zerubbabel, as they had each been governors of Judaea. In like manner the Darius of Daniel chapter 9 is not necessarily the Darius of Haggai and Zechariah. Some of the Septuagint translators of the Hellenistic period two centuries later must have realized this, and in Daniel 11 they wrote Cyrus where the Hebrew texts have Darius, but here in Daniel chapter 9 they left it as Darius. But it is evident that the Darius of Daniel chapter 9 is a title for Cyrus, the Persian king who conquered Babylon in 539 BC.
The main point we are trying to make in explaining this is that while the reference to Darius in Daniel chapter 9 was actually a reference to the king known as Cyrus, it is not necessarily the same Darius of Haggai chapter 1, or of Zechariah chapter 1, where the word indeed refers to the king known as Darius to the Greeks, who was Darius Hystaspis, the son of the Persian nobleman Hystaspes, who ascended to the throne of Persia in 521 BC. He was not a son of Cyrus, nor was he even a Mede, but a Persian.
We may read the prophecy to which Daniel had referred from Jeremiah chapter 25 where the prophet initially speaks of the coming destruction of Judaea and the surrounding nations at the hands of the Babylonians: “11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.”
Then in Jeremiah chapter 29, Yahweh addresses those of Judah who were to be taken captive to Babylon and says “10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive. 15 Because ye have said, The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon”.
Jeremiah 29:15 depicts the people of Judah exclaiming that “The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon”, and the depiction in itself is also a prophecy, since it had not yet happened. Both Obadiah and Daniel were among those prophets raised up in Babylon, and Nehemiah and Ezra may also be accounted among the prophets, but they were governors and the purpose of their Biblical writings were for the historical record. More pertinent to the period of the restoration of Jerusalem are Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, all of whom could be considered prophets of the second temple period.
So where Haggai began his prophecy “in the second year of Darius the king”, the reference is to Darius Hystaspis and the year is 520 BC. Likewise, Zechariah began his prophecy just a couple of months following Haggai, “in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius”. Both Zechariah and Iddo his father are listed among those priests who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in the book of Nehemiah (12:4, 16). The name of Haggai does not appear in Nehemiah, but that only indicates that Haggai was not a priest. Not all of the prophets of Yahweh were priests, or even Levites, of which Daniel and Amos are primary examples. Ezra attested of Haggai where he said in Ezra chapter 5: “1 Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Judahites that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.” Then in Ezra chapter 6 we read: “14 And the elders of the Judahites builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.”
The king whom the Greeks had called Artaxerxes, who ruled from 465-445 B.C. was the king of Persia in the time of Ezra, and both Cyrus and Darius Hystaspis, as well as several others, had preceded him. Nehemiah calls the king of Persia in his time Artaxerxes, but there the reference is actually a title for Darius. This issue, I believe, distinguishes my own Biblical interpretation for this period from that of every other commentator on Scripture. Clifton Emahiser's writing in his Watchman's Teaching Letter #133 for May of 2009 confirms that I have been contending since at least as early as 2002 that Nehemiah's initial return to Jerusalem actually preceded that of Ezra by over 40 years. I remember making this realization while first reading 1 Esdras in the Septuagint. I do not know if it has ever been asserted by anyone else. While I present other evidence in the article, as a simple proof of the assertion, in 2014 I made an addition to my Notes Concerning Daniel's 70 Weeks Prophecy where I said the following:
In the first 6 chapters of his book we see that Ezra recorded what had happened before his time, up to the building of the temple in Ezra 6. Most of these things are also recorded in Nehemiah. Then in chapter 7 we read “Now after these things...”, and Ezra records his own commission and return to Jerusalem. This is corroborated in Ezra chapter 9 where we see that the house of God and the wall of the city had already been built. It was Nehemiah who was commissioned to build that wall, and his book records that he did. In Nehemiah chapter 3, however, the wall had not yet been built and Nehemiah requests to do so. Therefore Nehemiah must have preceded Ezra, and he did, by well over 40 years.
Nehemiah 2:17: “Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.”
Ezra 9:9: “For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.”
Nehemiah speaks of the building of the wall in the future tense, and Ezra as it was already built, in the past tense. Therefore Nehemiah preceded Ezra.
Of course, there are other proofs which I presented showing that Nehemiah preceded Ezra, and they are right there in the text of Nehemiah for everyone to see. Yet I have never seen anyone else make this claim, and I consider all other Biblical writers and commentators, who have been merely following the errors of the Jews for over two thousand years, to be wrong on this matter. I shall stand by that assertion. In fact, I will even venture to state that anyone who thinks that Nehemiah came after Ezra demonstrates a lack of understanding of both History and Scripture on several levels.
Darius Hystaspis became king of Persia in 521 BC (but by some accounts 522 BC) and here it is most likely 520 BC, when the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem is about to commence. The temple was completed in the sixth year of Darius, about 516 BC. Jeremiah’s 70 years of desolation ended during this year, if we reckon the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the first temple by the Edomites to be 586 or 585 BC. Accordingly we read in Ezra chapter 6: “15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.”
With this background we shall commence with the prophecy of Haggai:
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,
From 1 Chronicles chapter 3 we read: “10 And Solomon's son was Rehoboam, Abia his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, 11 Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, 12 Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son, 13 Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, 14 Amon his son, Josiah his son. 15 And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. 16 And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son. 17 And the sons of Jeconiah; Assir, Salathiel his son, 18 Malchiram also, and Pedaiah, and Shenazar, Jecamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah. 19 And the sons of Pedaiah were, Zerubbabel, and Shimei: and the sons of Zerubbabel; Meshullam, and Hananiah, and Shelomith their sister: 20 And Hashubah, and Ohel, and Berechiah, and Hasadiah, Jushabhesed, five. 21 And the sons of Hananiah; Pelatiah, and Jesaiah: the sons of Rephaiah, the sons of Arnan, the sons of Obadiah, the sons of Shechaniah.”
It is expedient here to make another digression. The genealogies supplied in 1 Chronicles demonstrate that the two books known as Chronicles were actually a compilation of older records along with updates to make them current to the time of the return from Babylon. Therefore these books must have been made some time soon after the return of the Judahites from Babylon in the days of Zerubbabel. Ezra the scribe, as he is called throughout the Book of Nehemiah, is usually given credit for performing this task, and although it cannot be proven that it was him or him alone who did it, it does have credibility. This leads me again to notice, that Ezra the Scribe is often mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah, but in the Book of Ezra Nehemiah is only mentioned in retrospect, in Ezra chapter 2. This is because Ezra was a younger man while Nehemiah was alive, but by the time that Ezra himself was appointed governor of Judah, Nehemiah had evidently passed on. For his first 6 chapters Ezra recorded the decree of Cyrus and then of Darius and the commission of Zerubbabel. The Book of Nehemiah records what happened to this point, and then what things were done in Nehemiah's time, just after the time of Zerubbabel. Then the period of Ezra's commission which begins in Ezra chapter 7 is after Nehemiah had passed on.
In 1 Chronicles we see that Zerubbabel, a name which actually means “sown in Babel”, or as some say, Babylon, was described as only the nephew of Salathiel, being the son of Pedaiah who was a brother of Salathiel. But in the genealogies of Christ found in Matthew and Luke, he is called the son of Salathiel and not of Pedaiah. It is only possible to reconcile this apparent conflict with the acknowledgment that Zerubbabel must have been raised up for Pedaiah by his uncle, according to the law of raising up seed for a deceased brother. However it is also fitting, that Zerubbabel more literally means “sown in confusion”.
In any case, we see that Zerubbabel was a direct descendant of Jeconiah, of whom it was said in Jeremiah chapter 22: “30 Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” Yet while it is true that Zerubbabel never sat upon the throne of David, he was nevertheless considered worthy by Yahweh for the important task of leading the remnant of His people back to Jerusalem for the establishment of the 70 Weeks Kingdom, and he served as governor of Judah under the king of Persia.
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.
This word is spoken to Joshua the high priest, a man with the same Hebrew given name as Joshua the son of Nun who succeeded Moses, and of the Messiah of Israel, Yahshua Christ. It was also spoken to Zerubbabel, and therefore we see that the primary mission of Haggai's prophecy was to commission Zerubbabel and Joshua for the task for which Yahweh had chosen them. However while Haggai was chosen to bring these men their commission, it is given with criticism, since the prophet depicts the people of Judah as being cynical of the performance of the task in the hour at hand.
In the later prophecy of Zechariah, each of these men would stand as a type for Christ, alternately in His capacities as both king and priest. The name Joshua, or Yahshua, may be derived from Hebrew words which mean “Yahweh Saves”, and His function as Melchizedek priest is to save His people from their sins. But Christ is also King, and while Zerubbabel was not seated as a king because of the curse of Jeconiah, he was directly descended from the legitimate kings of Judah. Perhaps, and we risk saying this but we will say it nevertheless, the name Zerubbabel itself is also prophetic, since Yahweh had sown the Messiah in confusion, for which reason we cannot completely understand all of the circumstances in the apparently genealogies of both Matthew and Luke. Of course, the confusion is of men and not of God.
3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?
Yahweh chastises the people of Judah through the prophet, that they were living comfortably in captivity in Babylon while the temple lay in ruins. As we saw in Daniel, the 70 years desolation prophesied in Jeremiah were coming to a close, so it was time to rebuild the house of God.
5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 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 children of Judah lived comfortably in ceiled houses, but they were still not prosperous. Yahweh holds out to them the possibility of prosperity if they accede to His desires. There is no prosperity for the children of Judah apart from Yahweh their God, and apart from His will all of the labors of men are in vain. Here Yahweh is pronouncing hardship for the people of Judah in order to encourage them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild His temple. If they leave His house in ruins, they themselves will continue to toil without increase.
In the earlier prophecy of Hosea, the children of Israel were also promised to have anguish on these same terms, because they had forsaken their God, so it is said of the nation in Hosea chapter 2: “7 And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now. 8 For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. 9 Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.” So there is no prosperity for the children of Israel apart from Yahweh their God.
7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 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.
The words of Christ recorded in John chapter 13 come to mind: “31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.” This singular act was the entire purpose of the 70 Weeks Kingdom, as outlined by Yahweh in Daniel chapter 9.
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. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 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.
Christians should certainly apply this same concept to the Body of Christ today, which is the true temple of the Living God. As the ancient people of Judah were warned not to shirk from building the temple, Christians should not shirk from edifying the Body of Christ. Where it says that “ye run every man to his own house” we see the fleshly tendency towards individualism, which breaks the Body of Christ into pieces and causes its members to compete against one another. But building the body of Christ, Yahweh God shall provide for those members in turn, just as those of Judah are promised here if they venture to return and to rebuild the temple in old Jerusalem.
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. 13 Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.
If Yahweh is with us, then we had better do His will, lest he turn against us and by no means would we ever prevail. From 2 Chronicles 13:12, “O children of Israel, fight ye not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper.”
The population of ancient Jerusalem is difficult to determine, and unlike some of the surviving Assyrian records of the deportations of Israel and Judah, there are no surviving Babylonian records which inform us as to how many people of Judah were taken captive when Nebuchadnezzar had taken Jerusalem. While Samaria was not as illustrious a city as Jerusalem, the Assyrians deported only about 27,290 captives from that city after they had taken it under Sargon II. To compare the Jerusalem of 70 AD, Josephus, discussing the siege of the city by the Romans under Titus, had said that 1.1 million were killed when the city was taken, and reasoned that because of the feast during which the siege had begun, the number of people in the city may have been as great as 2.7 million people. This he explains in Book 6 of his Wars of the Judaeans. Yet while Josephus was an eye-witness, in his Histories the Roman Tacitus gives the total number of the besieged as a mere 600,000, less than a quarter of the number given by Josephus. However the normal population of the city was not mentioned by Josephus, and typical mainstream estimates place the peak second-temple period population of Jerusalem at around 200,000 people, a figure which we reckon to be too low.
In any event, the Babylonian captivity must have been notable, and must have included tens of thousands of the people of Judah. Not quite 70 years later, both Nehemiah in chapter 7 of his book and then Ezra in chapter 2 of his own recount that 42,360 people returned in the initial return of the children of Judah to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel, and some others followed thereafter. But these were only a portion of the number of Judah in captivity in Babylonia.
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, 15 In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
In the accounts of Nehemiah and of Ezra, we see that there was some opposition from the Samaritans as to the building of the temple, and especially to the building of the walls in Jerusalem. We read in part from Ezra chapter 5: “2 Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them. 3 At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? 4 Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building? 5 But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Judahites, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.” The balance of Ezra chapters 5 and 6 concern the letter written to Darius by the Samaritans and the reply which they received, where it is described that the building of the temple as originally decreed by Cyrus would indeed commence, and was finished in the sixth year of the reign of Darius.
So ultimately, the temple was rebuilt. However the walls were not built, and the city was not built to any great extent. The people of the Samaritans had hindered the Judahites with letters to the Persians for many years. In the 20th year of Darius, as it is explained in Nehemiah, the prophet managed to get a commission from Darius to rebuild the walls, and he goes to Jerusalem to start the work in 502 BC. However in 490 BC Nehemiah is recalled to Persia. That was the year of the battle of Marathon, where a large Persian army was surprisingly defeated by the Greeks, and from that time Darius would begin preparations for a large-scale war against the Greeks which his son Xerxes would execute. After losing four great battles, Thermopylae, Salamis, which was a naval engagement, Plataea and Mycale, Xerxes was miserably defeated by 479 BC. But for whatever reason, Ezra did not manage to get a commission for further building in Jerusalem until the reign of his son, who is known to us as Artaxerxes. However it is natural, that aside from the hindrances of the Samaritans, the Persian war with the Greeks would have stalled any building projects in Jerusalem.
2:1 In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, 2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, 3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?
Of course, it is possible that there were elderly people who were taken into captivity as small children, but they would have been very old by this time, 70 years later. Some of these may have remembered the majesty of the temple built by Solomon, and later restored by Josiah (2 Chronicles 34). Here we may perceive this as meaning that the new temple would not compare, yet the text seems to be referring only to the empty space where the temple of Solomon used to be, as it is observed by those coming from Babylon, since it is not quite one month since the building project was initiated.
According to Ezra chapter 6, the parameters of the building of the second temple were even decreed by Cyrus, where it says “Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits; With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber….” This description is vague, but not much different from the dimensions of Solomon's temple as given in 1 Kings chapter 6.
4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: 5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.
The kingdom of the northern tribes of Israel, as well as all of the people of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi in the kingdom of Judah who were taken away by the Assyrians were indeed divorced from Yahweh, as Yahweh in Jeremiah chapter 33 says “The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off?” But here where it says “the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt”, we see that as a remnant these people who remained were indeed kept under the Old Covenant.
6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.
Rather than desire in verse 7, the Septuagint Greek has elect things, for which Brenton had written choice portions. Martin Luther, admittedly following the commentary of the supposedly converted Jew Nicolas of Lyra, insisted upon interpreting verse 7 as a Messianic prophecy, that Christ was the “desire of all nations” spoken of by Haggai here. That universalist interpretation is not true at all, as Christ was never the desire of the heathens, and later in this same chapter Yahweh says that He shall “destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen”, or nations, which is hardly consistent with the musings of the Jew Nicolas of Lyra. Instead, the passage refers only to the silver ad gold of verse 8, which are the dedications that would be made to the rebuilt temple.
Properly, the word translated as desire here in Haggai 2:7 cannot refer to the Messiah. The noun is in the singular feminine form in the Hebrew text, but the corresponding word as it was translated in the Greek of the Septuagint is a plural neuter substantive. Luther seems to have translated the Hebrew word to mean consolation rather than desire, but that does not change the grammar. Christ did not fill the temple with glory, rather He promised instead that the temple would be destroyed. Furthermore the temple of the time of Christ was actually the third temple and not Haggai's temple. The temple of the time of Christ took forty-six years to build (John 2:20), and not four (Ezra 6:15), and Josephus testified that Herod had rebuilt this second temple from its foundations in the late first century BC.
On Yahweh's Day of Wrath there is no doubt that He shall “shake all nations” and that is expressed often elsewhere in Scripture. However here in these verses of Haggai there is a more immediate context. Haggai referred to the second temple as the “latter house” in comparison with Solomon's temple which he called the “former house”, and by the time of Christ both houses were gone forever. Yahweh does not dwell in a house made with hands, as Paul of Tarsus reminds us. The shaking of the nations here in Haggai is in connection with the second temple, and therefore in that context it is in the past.
There seems to be two occasions when all of the nations in the oikoumenê were disturbed during the history of this second temple. The first is shortly after it was built, from some time before 490 BC down through 479 BC, in the war between the Persians and the Greeks. In precipitation of this war, as it is recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus, Darius – the same Darius who is called by the title Artaxerxes in the Book of Nehemiah but Darius here in Haggai and in Zechariah - was also sending his armies around the Black Sea and subjugating the peoples who dwelt around it as well as the Scythians and Thracians to the north of Greece, so that he could cut off the Greek lumber supply and enclose the Greeks on various fronts. Furthermore, the Carthaginians still had an allegiance to Tyre, which was under tribute to the Persians. When Xerxes launched his large invasion of Greece, the Carthaginians at nearly the same time had invaded Sicily. The Greeks of Sicily and southern Italy were more numerous and powerful than those of Greece, but could not come to the aid of their fatherland because of the Carthaginian invasion. Ultimately the Greeks won the war on all fronts, but it is clear that “all nations” were indeed shaken. Understanding that Persia drew soldiers from the Bactrians and Sogdians as well as the nations of the Caucasus, and that Carthage employed mercenaries from the Kelts and Iberians of the west, one may see that all of the Adamic peoples from the borders of India to the northern Scythians and west to the Iberians and the Greeks of the settlements of Italy were involved in this war.
After the war, the Persians spent over a hundred years provoking troubles among the Greeks, especially between Sparta and Athens, so the war never really ended. But ostensibly, the next time that “all nations” were shaken was with the coming of Alexander the Great, who had conquered and defeated the Persians. Josephus wrote at length of the coming of Alexander to Jerusalem, and how the people of Judah had treated him splendidly, and how Alexander likewise treated the people of Judah and the high priest splendidly.
While the Judaeans, whom by Herodotus were called the “Syrians of Palestine”, supplied soldiers and sailors and also evidently helped build ships for the Persian war effort against the Greeks, Jerusalem seems to have been unscathed and had enjoyed a long period of peace in the second temple period, all the way to 156 BC when the Seleucids had defiled the temple. However outside of the prophets of the second temple period and a few sparse apocryphal writings, the record of events in Jerusalem from the end of the book of Ezra to the beginning of the first book of Maccabees, a period of 300 years, are virtually unknown. In Book 11 of his Antiquities, Josephus only briefly describes the good or bad fortunes of the people of Judaea from the time of Alexander's successors down to the time of the Maccabees, but for the most part the city was spared from war and remained in a state of relative peace throughout this period, since the people of Jerusalem had initially surrendered themselves to the successors of Alexander without a fight.
However there does seem to be a greater meaning to Haggai's words than merely the circumstances of the people of Jerusalem in the period of the second temple. Where Yahweh says “and in this place I will give peace”, that is how the purpose of the 70 Weeks Kingdom culminating in the Messiah may be summarized as it is described by Daniel, and that is how in part the purpose of the Messiah is later described by Paul. But the peace is between Yahweh and all of Israel, not necessarily between Yahweh and the inhabitants of second-temple Jerusalem. As we read in Daniel chapter 9: “24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” And then, as an example, as we may read in Colossians chapter 1, Paul says of Christ: “20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” The veracity of this interpretation may become more evident in the latter verses of the chapter.
In this light, if “the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former”, then it is only because the glory of the former temple resulted in the captivity of Israel, whereas the latter house preserved a remnant by which Yahweh was able to make reconciliation with Israel through Christ.
10 In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.
At this time the temple is still at least four years and two months from completion, as it is described in Ezra 6:15. But here Haggai seems to be tutoring the Levites on the “works of the law”, which are the ceremonial aspects of the law relating to conduct of sacrifices in the temple, in preparation for the resumption of such things in the temple. But as the next verse reveals, he is also making an example:
14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.
This is a rebuke of the people of Judah, which should have humbled them. This is a reminder that although Yahweh had preserved them for His purpose which He has explained here through Haggai, they were nevertheless unclean to Him. They had been taken to Babylon for their uncleanness in their many sins described by the earlier prophets. This is followed by a reminder that for their many labors they have not prospered.
15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.
Man does not have an assurance that he will profit from or even reap the fruits of his own labors. Rather, reaping the fruit of ones own labors and profiting by ones labors are a blessing from God, and they should not be taken for granted. In Deuteronomy chapter 28 we see this which the people of Judah had suffered among the curses of disobedience: “18 Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep…. 22 The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. 23 And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. 24 The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.” The word heaven in ancient Semitic languages was often used as a metaphor for government, so where it says that the heaven shall be as brass, it is a warning of oppressive government as a punishment from God, which the people of Judah certainly suffered under the Babylonians.
18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.
Haggai had first given the commission for Zerubbabel to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of Yahweh in the sixth month of the second year of Darius. The book of Ezra describes the work on the temple as commencing at this time, and finishing in the twelfth month, which is Adar, of the sixth year of Darius. The people of Judah had ostensibly been working on the temple for a short time at this point, but already the foundation of the temple was laid. In Ezra chapter 6, he had described the decree of Darius, that the work be executed speedily. Therefore, as soon as the people of Judah began the work of rebuilding the temple of Yahweh, they were promised that once again they would be blessed in their labor, and once again they would enjoy its fruits.
20 And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, 21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; 22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen [or nations]; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.
The Persians, the Parthians who followed them, the Greeks, and the Romans that came after them, were all constantly in a state of war. However here in these last passages of Haggai something seems to be referred to which overarches all of those empires. In Revelation chapter 11 we read: “15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
Because a sufficient number of the people of Judah returned and rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple, a remnant was preserved by which was fulfilled the purpose of Yahweh that had been outlined by Daniel in the prophecy of the 70 Weeks Kingdom. As we read in the 114th Psalm, “Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.” So the commission of Zerubbabel paved the way for the 70 Weeks Kingdom and the reconciliation of Yahweh with Israel. Now we await His Second Coming, and the “destruction of the kingdoms of the nations”. We know that this interpretation is true, because even the apostle Paul cited this very passage in Hebrews chapter 12 where he said “ 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.”
This is how Paul of Tarsus interpreted the last passage in Haggai.