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Haggai 1:15b—2:9

6 November 2022

Exploring the Scripture

The exiled Jews in Babylon longed to return to Jerusalem, repair the ruined walls, and rebuild the temple destroyed during the Babylonian conquest. When the Persians conquered the Babylonians, King Cyrus decreed the Jews may return to Judea, and even restored to them some of the temple’s vessels confiscated by the Babylonians. The Jews set out with great expectations for Jerusalem.

Efforts to rebuild the city walls and temple were frustrated, however, by conflict within the Jewish community. The people of the land, left behind when the elite and powerful were taken into exile, viewed the land as theirs. They resented the power and arrogance of the newly returned exiles.

At night they tore down the construction begun during the day. Destructive agents of surrounding nations viewed a stronger Jewish nation as a threat and joined in hindering the progress. Sixteen years passed, with little progress in rebuilding the temple.

Prophets Haggai and Zechariah brought messages to the governor, Zerubbabel, and the high priest, Joshua, commanding them to take control of the rebuilding project and provide strong leadership. Haggai tells the leaders that the poverty and despair the people endure is a result of their failure to build the temple.

In verse 3, Haggai asks these two leaders if anyone remembers the former glory of the temple. He challenges them to compare the memory of Solomon’s temple of 67 years ago to the rubble that still exists. Because the temple was viewed as God’s house, lack of a temple caused spiritual doubts about whether God was still among the people.

Haggai hastens to assure them that God’s Spirit remains with them. God says, “I am with you” (v. 4) (Immanuel), reaffirming the covenant God made with Moses after the Hebrews left Egypt. Haggai believed rebuilding the temple and purifying worship practices were necessary steps toward ushering in the messianic age. Thus, in verse 6, the prophecy shifts from current urging to complete the temple, to an oracle about Judea’s future restoration. The God of Israel would disrupt the natural order of creation, putting fear into the hearts of all the nations. As a result, they would bring their treasures to the temple, to fill it with splendor.

All the gold and silver belong to God, and God promised to deliver it to the Jews. The new temple will be more glorious than the old one that was destroyed. God will bless the people with prosperity, so they will no longer be hungry and poor.

These verses introduce Haggai’s vision for the messianic age to come. In the closing verses of chapter 2, the prophet promises that God would reestablish the power of the Jewish nation, destroy their enemies, and restore the Davidic line of kings forever. Haggai’s final promise is bold. If the leaders and people obey the command to build the temple and purify themselves as God’s holy people, God will build God’s kingdom and choose Zerubbabel as the messiah (the anointed one, or king).

Central Ideas

  1. Returning exiles from Babylon had a vision of rebuilding the temple. After 16 years of conflict and frustrated efforts, it was still not built.
  2. Haggai challenged the governor and high priest to take charge, and make building the temple a priority, so the people could be unified. 
  3. Haggai viewed temple completion as the beginning of the messianic age, which would bring new power and glory to Judea and the Davidic line.
  4. If the people are faithful, God will build the kingdom with God’s chosen king. The people would be blessed and prosper.

Questions to Consider

  1. Is your congregation and/or community procrastinating in bringing about Christ’s mission and the kingdom of God? Explain.
  2. How would you address this procrastination? What might motivate your people to be more diligent in the tasks God has given them?
  3. What would the messianic age look like in today’s world? Describe it.
  4. In the recent revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, where do you see evidence of the prophetic call to bring about the kingdom of God and the messianic age?

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