In 587 BC the Kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonian Empire. In 539 BC this Empire fell to the Persians. A year later Cyrus, King of Persia, issued a series of decrees allowing those exiled by Babylon to return to their homelands; this included the Jews who began their repatriation in 537 (Ezra 1:1-4; 2 Chron 36:22-23). Work quickly began on rebuilding the Temple; the altar of holocausts was erected and consecrated, and the foundations of the Temple were laid (Ezra 3:1-4:5). Unfortunately, various things conspired to stall the project for nearly a decade and a half (see Ezra 4:1-24). According to the superscription to the Book of Haggai (Hag 1:1) the word of the Lord came to that prophet on July 29, 520 BC, telling him to exhort the leaders and the people to get back to building the temple.
Hag 1:2-15. By the time Haggai came on the scene the people were dwelling in paneled houses and insisting that it was not yet time to build the Lord’s house (Hag 1:2-4). The people were having trouble making ends meet. Basic material necessities were lacking, this in spite of the fact that they were working hard for them (Hag 1:5-6). No doubt this lack was part of their incentive to leave off the building of the Temple, but God asks them to consider what they have been doing (Hag 1:7). They were busying themselves with their homes while His was laying in ruins, therefore, what they have been working so hard to bring home, God has been blowing away in an attempt to get them back to the better part, the one thing necessary (Hag 1:8-11; see Lk 10:42). The leaders and the people obeyed the Lord who promised to be with them in the endeavor (Hag 1:12-15).
Hag 2:1-9. On October 17, 520 BC the word of the Lord again came to Haggai (Hag 2:1). Apparently, some of the returnees who were old enough to remember the glorious Temple built by Solomon (1 Kings 6:1-38; 7:13-51) were dismayed at the humble nature of the temple then under reconstruction (Hag 2:2-3). God bids them to have courage and He reminds them of the Sinai covenant and His promise to dwell with them (Hag 2:4-5. See Ex 29:43-46). He bids them to look forward to a future time when the wealth of nations shall come in and the splendor of the temple at that time will surpass its former glory of the Solomonic Temple (Hag 2:6-9).
Hag 2:10-19. On the 18th of December, 520 BC another oracle came to Haggai (Hag 2:10). Ritually holy things do not pass on that holiness to other things (Hag 2:12); ritually defiled things do pass on ritual defilement (Hag 2:13), “so it is with this people” (Hag 2:14). Like prophets before him Haggai is warning the people against presumptions based upon the temple and its sacrifices; such things do not automatically guarantee the people’s holiness; repentance and living rightly are necessary. God wants them to consider what will take place “from this day onward’ (Hag 2:15a). It will not be like the past, which they have broken with (Hag 2:15b-19a); rather, it will be a time of blessing because of that break (Hag 2:19b).
Hag 2:20-23. Here we have a messianic promise (see Heb 12:26-28). The promise here made to this descendant of David, Zerubabel, is the reverse of the curse that was placed upon his grandfather, King Jehoiachin (Coniah), see Jer 22:24-26. The messianic line and its promises would have its continuance through Zerubabel (Mt 1:12) and would culminate in a heavenly Zion; and heavenly Jerusalem,