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Haggai Bible Walk
Theme: Rebuild the Temple
- Rebuild the temple. The Lord spoke through Haggai, in 520 BC, to Governor Zerubbabel and high priest Joshua and through them to all the people who had returned from Babylon. The Lord first admonished them for the 16 year lapse in the temple construction and then encouraged the people to resume construction of the temple that the Babylonians had destroyed in 586 BC. The Lord also reminded the people that He would bless them in the future.
- The Hebrew prophets of the fifth and sixth centuries BC lived in a time of upheaval, threats, and change for the Israeli people. Under God’s inspiration they spoke and wrote out the exile background. After all they had been through many wondered if God was really sovereign, and had He renounced the covenants He had made to them, and would He keep the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and the prophets? When the people moved back to the land they questioned many things: would God reestablish Jerusalem as His capital city; would He reinstate a Davidic king on the throne; would He reestablish temple worship in a new temple; what about the priesthood; and would the promises of restoration under Messiah come soon or come at all?
- The post-exilic prophets addressed these questions and doubts. The answer was short and simple. Yes, God will restore and bless Israel just as the prophets had said, but first the problem of sin—unbelief and disobedience had to be dealt with.
- Haggai 1:4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?”
- Haggai 1:14. So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.
- Haggai the prophet is the author (Haggai 1:1). There are many clear statements that the Lord spoke through him (Ezra 5:1; 6:14; Haggai 1:1, 3, 12, 13; 2:1, 10, 13, 14, 20).
- Haggai prophesied at the same time as Zechariah (Ezra 5:1 and 6:14). Zechariah 1:1 and 1:7 are both dated in the second year of Darius, the year of Haggai’s messages.
- Haggai prophesied in 520 BC. See the Bible walk notes for Ezra, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel for the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem many years later.
- “Darius I Hystaspes, or Darius the Great, king of Persia [522-486 BCE]. Through his father Hystaspes, Darius belonged to the Achaemenid family, as did Cyrus The Great and his son Cambyses II, but to a different branch of this family. When Cambyses was in Egypt, during the last year of his reign, a certain Gaumata usurped the throne by pretending to be Bardiya, Cambyses' brother, who had been assassinated secretly before Cambyses started out for his Egyptian campaign in 525 BCE. When Cambyses learned of this usurpation he immediately set out for Persia, but on the way, while in Syria, he died in July, 522 BCE, as the result of either an accident or suicide, leaving no heir. Darius, a distant cousin of Cambyses, at once set out to gain the throne for himself. With some helpers he slew the Smerdis/Gaumâta or false Bardiya in September, 522 BCE, and assumed the kingship. However, he had to fight against a number of other pretenders and rebels. It took more than a year (522-521 BCE) of hard fighting to put down revolts associated with Bardiya's claim to the throne. Almost every province of the empire was involved in the conflict, including Persia and, most particularly, Media. He finally emerged from the struggle the undisputed ruler of the Persian Empire. The story of his successes was engraved in three scripts and languages (Persian, Babylonian, and Elamite), accompanied by a sculptured relief, into a high rock wall of the Bisitun Mountain, a few miles east of modern Kermanshah.” (History of Iran, Achaemenid Empire,http://www.iranchamber.com/history/achaemenids/achaemenids.php)
- Herodotus says that Darius was one of seven conspirators who killed Pseudo-Smerdis. Six of the conspirators had to decide who would be the next king. They agreed that the next morning they would ride their horses to the outskirts of the city at sunrise. The one whose horse neighed first after sunrise would be king. Darius’ horse, with some preconditioning by the groom during the night, neighed first and so Darius was the new kings. (Herodotus Third Book, chapter 84-87). After he had consolidated his power, he studied law, which was significant for what was to follow. Remember that when Tattenai of Syria interfered with the Jew’s rebuilding project, Darius ordered the search for Cyrus’ decree. After he read the decree, he ordered Tattenai to stay away from Jerusalem and leave the work on the temple alone. In fact, Darius ordered Tattenai to provide the money and supplies necessary (Ezra 4:5; 4:24; 5:5, 6, 7; 6:1, 12, 13, 14, 15).
- The following are the Gentile kings who dominated Israel from the time of Cyrus into Ezra and Nehemiah’s time. Cyrus was the king who defeated Babylon.
- Cyrus, 559-530 BC (Isaiah 45:1-5; Ezra 1:1-4, 7, 8; Ezra 3:7; 4:3, 5; 5:13, 14, 17; 6.3, 14). Cyrus, King of Persia and Babylon, decreed in 538 BC that the Jews could return to Judah from exile and rebuild the city and the temple. Cyrus allowed the conquered people to take their gods and return to their homes. Furthermore, he decreed that the Jewish people could return home and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1; Ezra 6:3-5; 2 Chronicles 36:21-23).
- Cambyses, Cyrus’ son, 530-522 BC. He killed his brother Bardiya (Smerdis) in 525 and then led an expedition against the Egyptians. While he was gone, in 522 Gaumata (an imposter of Bardiya-Smerdis) usurped the Persian throne. When Cambyses heard of the successful plot, returned to Persia but died on the way in Syria in 522 BC.
- Gaumata or Pseudo Smerdis (who posed as Smerdis, the brother of Cambyses whom Cambyses had killed in 525), ruled 6 months in 522 BC.
- Darius I, 522-486 BC. He was a distant cousin of Cambyses. He killed Pseudo Smerdis in September of 522 BC and took the throne. See above 4.1.
- Xerxes, 486-465 BC, Darius’ son, and king during Esther’s life (Ezra 4.6).
- Artaxerxes I, 465-423 BC, Xerxes’ son and the king under whom Ezra and Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem and did their work (Ezra 4:7, 8, 11, 23; 6:14; 7:1, 7, 11, 12, 21; 8:1).
- Xerxes II, ruled for 45 days in 424 BC and was assassinated.
- The Jewish people returned to their land in three groups. This was similar to the three groups Babylon exiled (606 BC, 597 BC, and 586 BC.
- The first group returned to Judah in 536 BC. Zerubbabel (Sheshbazzar) led them. Cyrus was king of Persia. They completed the temple in 515 BC, during the reign of Darius I (Haggai 1-2 and Ezra 1-6).
- The second group returned in 458 BC. Ezra led them. Artaxerxes I was king of Persia (Ezra 7-10).
- The third group returned in 444 BC. Nehemiah led them. Artaxerxes I was king of Persia (Nehemiah 1-2).
- Pagan religious leaders who lived during Haggai’s time included Gautama Buddha (about 550-480 BC) in India and Confucius (551-479 BC) in China.
- Haggai the prophet (Haggai 1:1, 3, 12, 13; 2:1, 10, 13, 14, 20).
- Zerubbabel the governor of Judah (Haggai 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4. 21, 23 and many other Bible books). He was a descendent of David. King Cyrus appointed him governor of the exiles returning to Judah. His Aramaic name in Persia was Sheshbazzar. In 520 BC he and Joshua the high priest resumed construction of the temple. It was completed four years later in 516 BC. Zerubbabel was successful in his job. The Lord will honor him in the future (Haggai 2:23). Zerubbabel was the official representative of David’s line and was a fore shadow of the coming Messiah.
- Joshua the high priest (Haggai 1:1, 12, 14: 2:2, 4). He along with Zerubbabel led the rebuilding of the temple from 520-516 BC. God honored him (Zechariah 6:10-11).
Words and Phrases
- Temple (1:8; 2:3, 15, 18). The tabernacle and then Solomon’s temple were central to Israel’s life. Once the temple was completed by Solomon (1 Kings 6:1, 37, 38), it was the focus of the national and spiritual life of the nation. The offerings and sacrifices, priests, teaching, and praise of God centered in the temple. The temple was the symbol of Israel’s priest nation status. God lived and guided Israel through the temple. When Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple Israel’s spiritual and national identity suffered. Governor Zerubbabel and high priest Joshua led the rebuilding of the temple, called the second temple (Ezra 6:3 give initial dimensions). Herod later enlarged this second temple. The second temple was destroyed by Rome in the war of 66-70 AD. A new temple will be built for Christ’s millennial reign (Ezekiel 40-48).
- Date notations in Haggai. Here I am following Charles Dyer and Eugene Merrill of Dallas Theological Seminary in Nelson’s Old Testament Survey.
- Haggai 1:1, the first day, sixth month, second year of Darius is August 29, 520 BC.
- Haggai 1:15, the twenty-fourth day, sixth month, second year of Darius is September 21, 520 BC.
- Haggai 2:1, the twenty-first day, seventh month, second year of Darius is October 17, 520 BC.
- Haggai 2:10, the twenty-fourth day, ninth month, second year of Darius is December 18, 520 BC.
- Haggai 2:20, the twenty-fourth day, ninth month, second year of Darius is December 18, 520 BC, and Haggai delivered a second message on this day.
- Chapter 1, the command and work on the temple.
- Chapter 2, the glory and blessings of the temple.
Trace the Theme
- Haggai chapter 1.
- The Lord delivered His message to Haggai in 520 BC. This message was for Governor Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua, the spiritual and political leaders of the returned exiles (1:1). The Lord admonished the people of Judah for paying more attention to details of life for themselves than to serving the Lord by rebuilding the temple. Because of their wrong priorities God withheld his blessings (1:2-11). Zerubbabel and Joshua obeyed the God’s message sent by Haggai. The returned exiles also changed their thinking from self-centeredness to fearing the Lord (1:12). They all began work on the temple 24 days later (1:13-15). This intervening 3 weeks may have been taken up gathering lumbar for the work before it could start (1:8). The main lesson for us from this chapter is to put the Lord and His will first. What is most important to God’s people, fellowship and service with Him or spending all our time obtaining and using details of life?
- Haggai chapter 2.
- About 21 days later the Lord gave a second message to Haggai for Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the returned remnant (2:1-2). The Lord asked if anyone was alive who had seen Solomon’s temple which was destroyed 66 years before. He then asked if the present building project seems small in comparison (2:3). Sixteen years earlier, in 536 BC, some had wept because the foundation was smaller than Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:7-13). The Lord goes on and tells them to take courage because “I am with you.” By identifying Himself as the Lord of host, God is reminding them that He is the all powerful commander of all the earth (2:4). God long ago promised the Hebrew people that He would go with them (Exodus 33:15) and that is still true, so they are not to fear (5). The Lord then promised them that in the future (“a little while”) He will shake up and change the entire earth creation and world of nations in such a way that the nations will bring offerings of their wealth to the future temple, or we could say the temple in the distant future, the millennial temple (2:6-9). The glory of the temple in the future will surpass the glory of Solomon’s temple. At that time God will give peace to nations. This verse is a statement of the future millennial earth and temple. About 3 months after the Lord’s first message in which He admonished and instructed the Hebrew people (1:1-11) the Lord spoke to Haggai for the third time (2:10). The message was a warning that sin in the people harms the nation, the building of the temple, and cuts off God’s blessings. This has characterized the returned exiles since they came back in 536 BC. Haggai 1:3-11 summarized the discipline and lack of God’s blessing between the time they returned in 526 and the present time, 520 BC (2:11-19). Haggai concludes with another message on the twenty-fourth day of the second month (2:20-23). The Lord promised that in the future he will overthrow the rulers, the power, and the military of nations worldwide. This correlates with Haggai 2:6-9. At that time Zerubbabel will be made God’s signet ring. A signet ring is the sign of a king’s authority (Daniel 6:17), and also a sign that one is God’s king (Jeremiah 22:24-25), honored by the Lord for his messiah like leadership and work. Zerubbabel will be resurrected and honored in the Millennial kingdom.
- Political and spiritual leadership were vital to the welfare of Israel.
- Obedience brought blessing and disobedience brought discipline to Israel under the Old Testament.
- Sin contaminates whatever it touches, but sanctification is personal and individual and is not passed on through physical contact or ritual.
- God keeps his promises to Israel. Israel does have the future God has promised to her.
- The abiding or presence of the Holy Spirit was operative with the believing Hebrew remnant in the Old Testament time. This is different from the Holy Spirit indwelling each church age believer.
- The Temple of the Lord—Solomon’s temple, Zerubbabel’s temple, and the millennial temple—were central to Hebrew daily life. The millennial temple will operate during the millennial kingdom.
- The day of the Lord and the millennial kingdom were future to Haggai’s time. They are still future to the church age.
- 9God is sovereign over all nations. This is evidenced by his judgment and overthrow of nations that oppose Israel even though the other nations are stronger. His sovereignty will ultimately be demonstrated when he returns to earth at his second coming.
Lessons for Us
- What is most important to each of us? Is God, His word, His will, fellowship with Him, and serving Him at the top of our priorities or do we, like the returned exiles, put daily details ahead of the Lord?
- Do we put off God’s will in order to do what we want to do? The returned exiles did and it resulted in discipline, unhappiness, and discontent.
- Is local church assembly important to us today? The center of a believer’s Christian life is not the temple as it was for Israel. Local church assembly provides the environment for believers’ spiritual growth, encouragement, and service. The local church should encourage occupation with Christ, intake of God’s word, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and strengthening of our faith.
- What are the moral and cultural values for believers today in our country? What are they for me? Are following biblical values? Biblical morality and culture brings national blessing through the application of the biblical laws of establishment and the biblical laws of civilization. God has not promised to prosper Gentile nations, but those nations who follow biblical principles will experience more freedom, peace, social stability, and prosperity.
- Do we look forward to Christ returning for the church and then returning to set up the millennial kingdom? In that kingdom there will be godly leadership, proper spiritual life, and social stability.
- Is the Lord strengthening and guiding our service for Him? When we are doing His will in His way, this is happening.
- When we serve God are we living in fellowship with Him or are we carrying sin with us? Sin contaminates our service and only God’s power sanctifies our service.