In the sixth month - Called Elul by the Hebrews. It was the sixth month of the ecclesiastical year, and the last of the civil year, and answered to a part of our September.
Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel - Who was son of Jeconiah, king of Judah, and of the family of David, and exercised the post of a governor among the people, but not over them, for both he and they were under the Persian government; but they were permitted to have Zerubbabel for their own governor, and Joshua for their high priest; and these regulated all matters relative to their peculiar political and ecclesiastical government. But it appears from Ezra, Ezra 5:3, that Tatnai, the governor on this side the river, had them under his cognizance. None of their own governors was absolute. The Persians permitted them to live under their own laws and civil regulations; but they always considered them as a colony, over which they had a continual superintendence.
Joshua the son of Josedech - And son of Seraiah, who was high priest in the time of Zedekiah, and was carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, 1 Chronicles 6:15. But Seraiah was slain at Riblah, by order of Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Kings 25:18-21.
In the second year of Darius - , i. e., Hystaspis. The very first word of prophecy after the captivity betokens that they were restored, not yet as before, yet so, as to be hereafter, more than before. The earthly type, by God‘s appointment, was fading away, that the heavenly truth might dawn. The earthly king was withdrawn, to make way for the heavenly. God had said of Jeconiah Jeremiah 22:30, “No man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Israel:” and so now prophecy begins to be dated by the years of a foreign earthly ruler, as in the Baptism of the Lord Himself Luke 3:1. Yet God gives back in mercy more than He withdraws in chastisement. The earthly rule is suspended, that people might look out more longingly for the heavenly.
In the sixth month - They counted by their own months, beginning with Nisan, the first of the ecclesiastical year (which was still used for holy purposes and in sacred history), although, having no more any kings, they dated their years by those of the empire, to which they were subject (See Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 7:1) in the sixth month, part of our July and August, their harvest was past, and the dearth, which they, doubtless ascribed (as we do) to the seasons, and which Haggai pointed out to be a judgment from God, had set in for this year also. The months being lunar, the first day of the month was the festival of the new moon, a popular feast Proverbs 7:20 which their forefathers had kept Isaiah 1:13-14, while they neglected the weightier matters of the law, and which the religious in Israel had kept, even while separated from the worship at Jerusalem (2 Kings 4:23; add Amos 8:5; Hosea 2:11). In its very first day, when the grief for the barren year was yet fresh, Haggai was stirred to exhort them to consider their way; a pattern for Christian preachers, to bring home to people‘s souls the meaning of God‘s judgments. God directs the very day to be noted, in which He called the people anew to build His temple, both to show the readiness of their obedience, and a precedent to us to keep in memory days and seasons, in which He stirs our souls to build more diligently His spiritual temple in our souls.
By the hand of Haggai - God does almost everything which He does for a person through the hands of people. He commits His words and works for people into the hands of human beings as His stewards, to dispense faithfully to His household. Luke 12:42. Hence, He speaks so often of the law, which He commanded “by the hand of Moses;” but also as to other prophets, Nathan 2 Samuel 12:25, Ahijal, 1 Kings 12:15; 1 Kings 14:16; 2 Chronicles 10:15. Jehu 1 Kings 16:7, Jonah 2 Kings 14:25, Isaiah Isaiah 20:2, Jeremiah Jeremiah 37:2, and the prophets generally. 2 Chronicles 29:25 the very prophets of God, although gifted with a Divine Spirit, still were willing and conscious instruments in speaking His words.
Unto Zerubbabel - (so called from being born in Babylon) “the son of Sheatiel.” By this genealogy Zerubbabel is known in the history of the return from the captivity in Ezra and Nehemiah Ezra 3:2, Ezra 3:8; Ezra 5:2; Nehemiah 12:1. God does not say by Jeremiah, that Jeconiah should have no children, but that he should in his lifetime be childless, as it is said of those married to the uncle‘s or brother‘s widow Leviticus 20:20-21, “they shall die childless.” Jeremiah rather implies that he should have children, but that they should die untimely before him. For he calls Jeconiah Jeremiah 22:30, “a man who shall not prosper in his days; for there shall not prosper a man of his seed, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Israel.” He should die (as the word means) “bared” of all, alone and desolate. The own father of Shealtiel appears to have been Neri Luke 3:27, of the line of Nathan son of David; not, of the line of the kings of Judah. Neri married, one must suppose, a daughter of Assir, son of Jeconiah 1 Chronicles 3:17-19 whose grandson Shealtiel was; and Zerubbabel was the own son of Pedaiah, the brother of Shealtiel, as whose son he was in the legal genealogy inscribed, according to the law as to those who die childless Deuteronomy 23:5-10, or as having been adopted by Shealtiel being himself childless, as Moses was called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh Exodus 2:10. So broken was the line of the unhappy Jehoiachin, two thirds of whose own life was passed in the prison Jeremiah 52:31, into which Nebuchadnezzar did cast him.
Governor of Judah - The foreign name betokens that the civil rule was now held from a foreign power, although Cyrus showed the Jews the kindness of placing one of themselves, of royal extraction also, as his deputy over them.
The lineage of David is still in authority, connecting the present with the past, but the earthly kingdom had faded away. Under the name “Sheshbazzar” Zerubbabel is spoken of both as the “prince” and the “governor” Ezra 5:14, of Judah. With him is joined “Joshuah the son of Josedech, the high priest,” whose father went into captivity 1 Chronicles 6:15, when his grandfather Seraiah was slain by Nebuchadnezzar 2 Kings 25:18-21. The priestly line is also preserved. Haggai addresses these two, the one of the royal, the other of the priestly, line, as jointly responsible for the negligence of the people; he addresses the people only through them. Together, they are types of Him, the true King and true priest, Christ Jesus, who by the resurrection raised again the true temple, His Body, after it had been destroyed.
For over a year the temple was neglected and well-nigh forsaken. The people dwelt in their homes and strove to attain temporal prosperity, but their situation was deplorable. Work as they might they did not prosper. The very elements of nature seemed to conspire against them. Because they had let the temple lie waste, the Lord sent upon their substance a wasting drought. God had bestowed upon them the fruits of field and garden, the corn and the wine and the oil, as a token of His favor; but because they had used these bountiful gifts so selfishly, the blessings were removed. PK 573.1
Such were the conditions existing during the early part of the reign of Darius Hystaspes. Spiritually as well as temporally, the Israelites were in a pitiable state. So long had they murmured and doubted; so long had they chosen to make personal interests first, while viewing with apathy the Lord's temple in ruins, that many had lost sight of God's purpose in restoring them to Judea; and these were saying, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built.” Haggai 1:2. PK 573.2
But even this dark hour was not without hope for those whose trust was in God. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah were raised up to meet the crisis. In stirring testimonies these appointed messengers revealed to the people the cause of their troubles. The lack of temporal prosperity was the result of a neglect to put God's interests first, the prophets declared. Had the Israelites honored God, had they shown Him due respect and courtesy, by making the building of His house their first work, they would have invited His presence and blessing. PK 573.3Read in context »
To His children today the Lord declares, “Be strong, ... and work: for I am with you.” The Christian always has a strong helper in the Lord. The way of the Lord's helping we may not know; but this we do know: He will never fail those who put their trust in Him. Could Christians realize how many times the Lord has ordered their way, that the purposes of the enemy concerning them might not be accomplished, they would not stumble along complainingly. Their faith would be stayed on God, and no trial would have power to move them. They would acknowledge Him as their wisdom and efficiency, and He would bring to pass that which He desires to work out through them. PK 576.1
The earnest pleadings and the encouragements given through Haggai were emphasized and added to by Zechariah, whom God raised up to stand by his side in urging Israel to carry out the command to arise and build. Zechariah's first message was an assurance that God's word never fails and a promise of blessing to those who would hearken to the sure word of prophecy. PK 576.2Read in context »