Haggai 2:4-The Lord Issues the Remnant of Judah Four Commands and a Guarantee to Encourage Them to Rebuild His Temple
Haggai 2:1 On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the Lord spoke again through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Ask the following questions to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the remnant of the people: 3 ‘Who among you survivors saw the former splendor of this temple? How does it look to you now? Isn’t it nothing by comparison? 4 Even so, take heart, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord. ‘Take heart, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you citizens of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and begin to work. For I am with you,’ says the Lord who rules over all.” (NET)
Haggai 2:4 contains four commands which the Lord, the God of Israel issued to Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the citizens of the kingdom of Judah through the prophet Haggai.
The first required that Zerubbabel be strong and the second required that Joshua, the high priest, Jehozadak’s son be strong as well.
The third required that each and every one of the citizens possessing the land, i.e. the citizens of Judah be strong and the fourth is an inference from the first three and required that Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the citizens of Judah work to complete the rebuilding of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem.
The fourth is followed by a causal clause which presents the reason why Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the citizens of Judah must obey this fourth command and asserts that the Lord was with each and every one of them.
All of these commands stand in direct contrast to the three rhetorical questions which appears in Haggai 2:3 and all are presenting a comparison between Solomon’s temple prior to its destruction in 586 B.C. and this temple when it was being rebuilt by this remnant in 520 B.C.
Now, the Lord makes this comparison between Solomon’s temple prior to its destruction in 586 B.C. and this temple being reconstructed in 520 B.C. because the remnant of Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua were making these comparisons and He wanted them to stop doing so.
This comparison was also made by those who laid the foundation of this temple in 536 B.C.
The people were making an erroneous comparison because the circumstances in both instances were totally different.
Solomon’s was an age of economic prosperity and thus he possessed tremendous resources for his numerous building projects which included the temple.
In contrast, Zerubbabel, the governor of the remnant of Judah had come out of exile to a land that had been decimated by war and neglect and he also had few resources from which to build the temple.
So therefore, we can see that the Lord is telling the remnant of Judah that they were to be strong and complete the work of rebuilding His temple in Jerusalem despite the fact that Solomon’s temple was superior in magnificence to the one they were working on because He was with them.
The implication of this command is that Zerubbabel, Joshua and the citizens of the remnant of Judah were discouraged that this building project was inferior to Solomon’s temple.
When the Lord authoritatively directs Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the citizens of Judah to be strong, this means that they were to become strong or powerful in order to possess the ability to complete the rebuilding of His temple in Jerusalem despite opposition from the enemies of the kingdom of Judah.
It also implies that they were to possess an element of resolve in order to complete this task assigned to him by the God of Israel who has empowered them to do so.
As we noted, the fourth command in Haggai 2:4 is an inference from the previous three commands to be strong and required that Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the citizens of Judah complete the work of rebuilding the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem.
Therefore, this indicates this command to work is inferred from the commands to be empowered.
The implication is that the Lord empowered them in order to complete the work of rebuilding of His temple.
Now, we noted that the fourth command has a causal clause following it, which presents the reason why Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the citizens of Judah must obey this fourth command and asserts that the Lord was with each and every one of them.
Therefore, this indicates that Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the citizens of Judah were to be strong and complete the work of rebuilding the Lord’s temple because the Lord was with them, which would not only encourage this remnant, but also empower them to complete the project.
The three commands to be strong and the command to work are tied to the assertion that the Lord is with this remnant.
The implication is that this remnant would become strong or empowered to complete the work of rebuilding the Lord’s temple by accepting by faith the Lord’s assertion that He was with them.
In other words, they would become strong so at to complete this work by exercising faith that the Lord was with them, which brings out the principle that God’s Word is omnipotent (Heb. 4:12) and the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 1:16).
So Haggai 2:4 is teaching that God’s Word in the form of a promise or guarantee that He would be with this remnant is omnipotence which would enable this remnant to complete the work of rebuilding His temple.
This is the second time in the book of Haggai that the Lord asserts that He was with the remnant of Judah since the first was in Haggai 1:13.
This statement means that the Lord was experiencing fellowship with this remnant, which would enable this remnant to complete this task assigned to them by the Lord.
Furthermore, this declaration has an active sense in that the Lord would Himself be actively involved in the work of completing the rebuilding of the temple since Haggai 1:14 asserts that He energized Zerubbabel and Joshua and the entire remnant of Judah to complete this task.
The Lord’s declaration in Haggai 1:13 and 2:4 that He would be with the remnant of Judah also assures this remnant of His personal presence meaning He would indwell the temple.
This is implied by the command in Haggai 1:8 to complete the rebuilding of this temple in Jerusalem since the purpose of this task was so that this remnant could once again have a centralized location in which to worship Him.
This interpretation is further supported by the fact that many years after the completion of this project, the prophet Malachi demanded that the Israelites bring proper sacrifice and tithes to this temple, which the Lord asserts He loves (cf. Mal. 2:11).
Further supporting this interpretation is that in Luke 1:8-22 asserts that Zacharias was performing his priestly service in this second temple “before God” when the angels appears to inform him that he and his wife would have a child in their old age.
In fact, the gospel of Luke presents the temple as the location of God’s presence and activity (cf. Luke 2:22-49).
Matthew 23:21 records Jesus as assuming God’s presence in this second temple as a location of God’s presence when He rebukes the Jewish religious leaders’ practice of oaths by saying “Whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.”
So therefore, Haggai 2:4 is teaching that the Lord’s personal presence would empower Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the citizens of Judah to complete the work of rebuilding His temple in Jerusalem despite the opposition from their enemies to do so.
In other words, they were to be strong and complete this task because His personal presence would enable them to do so.
His personal presence would provide His omnipotence to complete this task.
Now, notice in Haggai 2:4 that the prophet Haggai employs the proper noun yhwh (Yahweh) “Lord” three times, which is the covenant-keeping personal name of God and is used here in connection with His covenant relationship with the Jewish people.
This word is emphasizing the “immanency” of the Lord meaning that He involves Himself in and concerns Himself with and intervenes in the affairs of the citizens of the kingdom of Judah.
He is intervening here by empowering the souls of Zerubbabel, Joshua and the citizens of Judah to complete the task of rebuilding His temple in Jerusalem by being personally present with them.
Also, as was the case in Haggai 1:2, 5, 7, 9, and 14, we have the expression the yhwh ṣĕbāʾôt (יְהוָ֥ה צְבָא֖וֹת), “the Lord ruling over the armies” here in Haggai 2:4, which is speaking of the God of Israel’s sovereignty over all creation and every creation, both human and angelic beings.
This expression also emphasizes the divine origin of these four commands and causal here in Haggai 2:4.
It would also be a reminder to this remnant of Judah that the God of Israel was in control and not the human rulers on the earth who might be hindering this rebuilding project or preventing them from performing this task.
If the God of Israel is the Lord ruling over the angelic and human armies, then this remnant has no excuse for not rebuilding the Lord’s temple.
If the God of Israel wants this remnant to rebuild His temple, they should waste no time in doing so since no one will be able to stop this task from being accomplished if God is sovereign and ruling over human and angelic armies and rulers.
So therefore, this expression is designed to encourage the remnant of Judah to complete the task of rebuilding His temple in Jerusalem and reassure them of His presence as they completed this task.