According to Ezra 1:1-3, God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus the Persian king to make a proclamation to send back the Jews to Jerusalem and build the temple of God. Then Zerubbabel and Jeshua returned with some of the captives to Jerusalem for the first time and began to rebuild the temple of God (around 538 BC, 2nd year of Cyrus).

After they laid the foundation of the temple, they began to meet obstacles from the enemies of the Jews all around. In the reign of Artaxerxes, the enemies sent a letter to the Persian king and said, “Be it known unto the king, that the Jews who came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and bad city, and have set up the walls and joined the foundations. Be it known unto the king that if this city be built and the walls set up again, then they will not pay toll, tribute and custom. So thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings…therefore we have sent and certified the king that search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers. So thou shalt find that this city is a rebellious city and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition (常有悖逆的事) of old time, for which cause this city destroyed.” (Ezra 4:12-16) The king found Jerusalem’s bad record of making “insurrection against kings” and commanded that the work be stopped immediately. The king issued an official letter and said, “it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein…Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me.” (Ezra 4:19,21)

“Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia (520 BC). Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo (易多的孫子), prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel (撒拉鐵), and Jeshua 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.” (Ezra 4:23-5:2)

Messages from the Lord

The word of the Lord came to Haggai in 5 different times during the same year, the 2nd year of Darius. All the messages (complaint mixed with comfort) are given on specific dates (day and month) as recorded on the book.

(1st message--complaint)

(June 1) Haggai began with such message: the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel, governor (省長) of Judah and Joshua (i.e. Jeshua) the high priest, saying, “Thus speak the Lord of hosts, This people say, ‘The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.’ Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled (天花板) houses, and this house lie waste?” (1:1-4) The Lord said twice, “Consider your ways (你們要省察自己的行為).” (1:5,7), meaning that they were then suffering poor living conditions because the Lord had not blessed them.

(2nd message--comfort)

(June 24) Haggai spoke to the people of Israel, I am with you, saith the Lord.” (1:13) The Lord then stirred up the spirits of Zerubbabel and Joshua and of all the remnant of the people, and they resumed the reconstruction work.

(3rd message--comfort)

(July 21) The Lord encouraged them again to rebuild the temple, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel and Joshua and all ye people of the land, and work, for I am with you. According to the word that I  covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remain among you. Fear ye not. For yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory. The silver is mine and the gold is mine. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former. In this place I will give peace.” (2:4-9)
(4th message—complaint and comfort)

(Sept 24) In 2:10-14, the Lord told the priests through Haggai that their offerings were unclean because they themselves were unclean before him. Then the Lord asked them to “consider” (2:15,18) again their former unblessed living and sighed, “yet ye turned not to me. (「你們仍不歸向我」)” (2:17) In the end, the Lord comforted them with the word, from this day will I bless you.” (2:19)

(5th message—comfort)

(Sept 24) This last message is for Zerubbabel, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, ‘I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen…In that day…will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant… and will make thee as a signet (以你為印)(NRSV—‘make you like a signet ring’), for I have chosen thee.’ ” (2:20-23) A signet ring is the symbol of kingship. This prophesy points to the kingship of Christ. As a matter of fact, Zerubbabel is found in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:12-13). Matt 1:12 even says, “And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechoniah begat Salathiel; and Salathiel (撒拉鐵) begat (生) Zerubbabel.”