Haggai, Prophet of the Greater Temple: Part 3
Issue No. 339
Haggai 2:1 says,
1 On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying…
This word came to Haggai about seven weeks after his first word. Hag. 1:1 dates the beginning of his revelation as the first day of the sixth month, and that word stirred up the people. They met to start work on the 24th day of the same month (Hag. 1:15), and it took a week to set up the altar of burnt offering.
Ezra 3:6 tells us,
6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, but the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid.
The first day of the seventh month was the feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hoshana. Verse 4 also tells us that “they celebrated the Feast of Booths” two weeks later. In other words, they began to keep the feasts once again, beginning with the new year in September 534 B.C. By our reckoning, this year 534-533 B.C. was the first year of the new countdown for reckoning the Sabbath year cycles as well.
Chapter 2 then gives the word of the Lord after the people had been working on the temple for nearly a month. Haggai 2:2, 3 continues,
2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying, 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?”
They had barely begun their work. The foundation had not even been laid yet, and they were still cutting the beams and preparing the stones. But the plans were drawn up, and it was apparent to all that this rebuilt temple was nothing in comparison to the former temple.
Haggai knew that the people could easily become discouraged on account of the simplicity of the second temple. Remember that this temple did not become one of the seven wonders of the world until King Herod took it apart and rebuilt it, beginning about 16 B.C.
Reconstructing Zerubbabel’s Temple
Josephus tells us that Herod conceived the project in his 18th year.
“And now Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign, and after the acts already mentioned, undertook a very great work, that is, to build of himself the temple of God, and make it larger in compass, and to raise it to a most magnificent altitude, as esteeming it to be the most glorious of all his actions, as it really was… (Antiq., XV, xi, 1)
Herod’s reign began in 37 B.C. So the 18th year of his reign was 19 B.C. Josephus tells us again,
“And this was the speech which Herod made to them; but still this speech affrighted many of the people, as being unexpected by them, and because it seemed incredible, it did not encourage them, for they were afraid that he would pull down the whole edifice, and not be able to bring his intentions to perfection for its rebuilding; and this danger appeared to them to be very great, and the vastness of the undertakings to be such as could hardly be accomplished.” (Antiq. XV, xi, 2)
We see that when Herod announced his intentions, many became alarmed, thinking that he would take down the temple without having the time or the resources to rebuild it. So he promised to gather all the building materials first. Josephus continues,
“But while they were in this disposition, the king encouraged them, and told them he would not pull down their temple till all things were gotten ready for building it up entirely again. And as he promised them this beforehand, so he did not break his word with them, but got ready a thousand wagons, that were to bring stones for the building, and chose out ten thousand of the most skilled workmen… and then began to build; but this not till everything was well prepared for the work.” (Antiq. XV, xi, 2)
Josephus also tells us that once the work on the temple actually started, “the temple itself was built by the priests in a year and six months” (Antiq. XV, xi, 6). Construction of the “cloisters and the outer enclosures” took another eight years (Antiq. XV xi, 6), being finished, presumably, about the year 8 B.C. Yet there was much more to be built.
Herod died in January of 1 B.C., long before the rest of the project was completed. He died just a few months after Jesus was born, and one of his last paranoid acts was to kill the children in Bethlehem. His son, Archelaus took the throne in his place (Matt. 2:22).
As the son of Herod and his wife Malthace (a Samaritan woman), Archelaus was proclaimed king by his army, but he declined this honor until he should go to Rome to receive the title officially. First, however, because of unrest in Jerusalem on account of his father’s prior acts of injustice, he sent troops into the city at the feast of Passover and killed 3,000 protestors. In fact, he sent out public notices that Passover was cancelled that year.
He then immediately embarked for Rome to lay claim to his title. However, his own family opposed him, and Rome gave him only a title of Ethnarch, which was somewhat less prestigious. Josephus tells us,
“When Caesar had heard these pleadings, he dissolved the assembly; but a few days afterwards he appointed Archelaus, not indeed to be king of the whole country, but ethnarch of one half of that which had been subject to Herod, and promised to give him the royal dignity hereafter, if he governed that part virtuously.” (Antiq. XVII, xi, 4)
Even so, he was given Judea, and so the building of the temple continued until the tenth year of his reign until he was banished to Vienna in 8 or 9 A.D. His rule over Judea had been as cruel as his father’s, and so he was accused before Augustus Caesar of violating the order to govern “virtuously.” Josephus tells us,
“And when he was come [to Rome] to Caesar, upon hearing what certain accusers of his had to say, and what reply he could make, both banished him, and appointed Vienna, a city of Gaul, to be the place of his habitation, and took his money away from him.” (Antiq., XVII, xiii, 2)
After Archelaus was banished, Roman procurators ruled Judea until the time of King Herod Agrippa, a grandson of Herod, who was given the province of Judea in 41 A.D. Josephus tells us,
“And now Archelaus’s part of Judea was reduced into a province, and Coponius, one of the equestrian order among the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power of [life and] death put into his hands by Caesar.” (Wars of the Jews, II, viii, 1)
There was a long gap between 6 and 41 A.D., while Judea was ruled by Roman procurators. So the temple was finished under the oversight of Rome itself, although the priests and other laborers did the actual work.
Judea itself was incorporated into the province of Syria, ruled from Antioch. Josephus tells us,
“So Archelaus’ country was laid to the province of Syria; and Cyrenius, one that had been consul, was sent by Caesar to take account of people’s effects in Syria, and to sell the house of Archelaus.” (Antiq., XVII, xiii, 5).
This was the same Cyrenius who had been entrusted with the task of enrolling the names of all the Roman subjects in Syria and Judea at the time Jesus was born in September of 2 B.C. That enrollment had been done to ratify the Roman senate’s proclamation that Augustus was Pater Patriae, “Father of the Country” on his 25th anniversary (since 27 B.C.). It is the registration that took Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-5).
Forty-Six Years to Build the Temple
By 30 A.D., near the start of Jesus’ ministry, the construction had been going on for 46 years (John 2:20). The precise date of the 46 years cannot be ascertained with certainty, but if the workmen hired by Herod began to construct the temple in 17 or 16 B.C., then 46 years later would have been in 30 or 31 A.D.
Although the statement regarding 46 years was made during the first Passover recorded in the book of John (John 2:13, 20), it is not certain that this was truly the first Passover in Jesus’ ministry. In fact, we know that John rearranged the three Passovers in his account in order to subordinate the chronology to the prophecies of the seven days of the feast of Tabernacles.
The second recorded Passover (John 6:4) was the one where John the Baptist was executed. We know this because it was at that time Jesus fed the 5,000 and then received news that John had been beheaded by Herod (Matt. 14:10-13). Matthew tells us that when Jesus heard the news, He withdrew to the wilderness, where the multitudes followed Him. He then fed the 5,000.
After Jesus was baptized in September of 29 A.D., He limited His ministry (John 2:4) until John was cast into prison, and He did not fully enter His ministry until John was executed in 30 A.D. This was because John the Baptist was God’s choice as high priest—the last of the Levitical priests. He died childless, and so his position passed down to his first cousin on his mother’s side—that is, Jesus.
But since Jesus was of Judah, rather than of Levi, He did not qualify as a Levitical priest, but of Melchizedek instead. The death of John gave Jesus the high priestly office (from God’s perspective), so that He qualified to enter the Temple in heaven carrying His own blood to sprinkle on the altar (Heb. 9:11, 12).
Because the apostle John subjected chronology to the prophecy of the feast of Tabernacles, we do not know precisely when the word was spoken concerning 46 years. Neither do we know the precise year when Herod began to build the temple. Yet we know approximately the time, because it began a short time after 19 B.C. (Herod’s 18th year) and 46 years later takes us to the early part of Jesus’ ministry (30-33 A.D.)
We return now to the building of the second temple in Jerusalem in the days of Zerubbabel.
Financing the Construction
When the work on the second temple resumed in the days of Darius the Great (520 B.C.), the people of Samaria hired lawyers to stop the work. The Samaritan leaders did not believe that the Persian king had allowed Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple.
So Tattenai, the governor of a nearby province sent a letter to King Darius, which is recorded in Ezra 5:6-17, asking him (in verse 17), “let a search be conducted in the king’s treasure house, which is there in Babylon, if it be that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to rebuild this house of God at Jerusalem.”
The next verse, Ezra 6:1, tells us that Darius decreed that a search should be made. They found the original decree from Cyrus, which is quoted in Ezra 6:3-5. Not only did it confirm the building of the temple, it also stated in verse 4, “let the cost be paid from the royal treasury.”
So Darius then commanded Tattenai in Ezra 6:7, 8,
7 Leave this work on the house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. 8 Moreover, I issue a decree concerning what you are to do for these elders of Judah in the rebuilding of this house of God: the full cost is to be paid to these people from the royal treasury out of the taxes of the provinces beyond the River, and that without delay.”
No doubt Tattenai regretted sending his letter, because not only did he lose his case, but now he had to pay for the building project in full out of the taxes of the province. Tattenai, whose name means “gift,” was forced to give money to finance the building of the temple in Jerusalem!
Darius also issued a threat to any who refused to comply with his decree. Ezra 6:11 says,
11 And I issued a decree that any man who violates this edict, a timber shall be drawn from his house and he shall be impaled on it and his house shall be made a refuse heap on account of this.
Well, that explains why the opposition ceased and the builders were able to complete the project in just five years.
Ezra 6:15 then concludes, saying,
15 And this temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
The date of completion, by our modern calendar, was March 15, 515 B.C. The next month started the 7th year of Darius, since their regnal years began in April.
The fact that Persia—the second beast empire—financed the building of the temple is highly significant. This set the pattern for the building of the real Temple represented by this physical temple in Jerusalem. Recall that Isaiah 44:28 prophesied two centuries earlier:
28 It is I who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.” And he declares of Jerusalem, “She will be built,” and of the temple, “Your foundation will be laid.”
This prophecy implies that if Cyrus was to make such a decree, then he would also take the responsibility for financing the construction. Furthermore, this aspect of Cyrus’ rule was what made him a type of messiah, as he is called a few verses later in Isaiah 45:1.
Now that we have come full circle, and all four beast systems have run their courses; now that Babylon has repeated its oppression in the form of Mystery Babylon, we are now seeing the rise of new “kings from the east,” whom God has raised up to overthrow Babylon and to finance the building of the New Jerusalem and the New Temple.
This suggests that God will use the new kings from the east to finance the construction of the New Jerusalem World Order for the Kingdom Age that is coming. While Christians finance and support the building of a third earthly temple in Jerusalem—for the purpose of animal sacrifice—God is planning something much greater. The divine plan is to build a New Covenant temple and a New Jerusalem that is not limited to a few acres in the old land. This temple will be made of living stones taken from all nations in order to establish God’s original intent—as revealed to Abraham—to bless all the families of the earth.
Haggai understood that the second temple in Jerusalem was nothing like Solomon’s temple. Yet it was a type of something so great that even Solomon’s temple could never equal it. Solomon knew that his temple, however grand, could not contain the God of heaven (1 Kings 8:27). Only a temple made of living stones was capable of providing an earthly home for the God of heaven.
If Solomon’s temple could not contain the God of heaven, how could Zerubbabel succeed where Solomon had failed? At least Solomon had the ark of the covenant to put into the Most Holy Place. Zerubbabel was unable to place the ark into his temple, because it had been taken by Jeremiah to another part of the world. Even if the ark had been returned, the glory of God had already departed from that place (Ezekiel 11:23), never again to return. As with Shiloh in earlier times, Ichabod was pronounced upon the city of Jerusalem (Jer. 7:12-14).
In view of these things, Haggai assured the people that they were truly doing a prophetic work, establishing the pattern for a greater temple yet to come. Hag. 2:4 says,
4 “But now take courage, Zerubbabel,” declares the Lord, “take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,” declares the Lord, “and work; for I am with you,” says the Lord of hosts.
This work was not in vain, because it was a work of faith. No labor on earth is of value except when it is done by faith. Heb. 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Faith comes by hearing the word (Rom. 10:17), so when a work is done by faith, it is the work of obedience, and obedience will always have value and be rewarded.
Oftentimes, we are led to travel even long distances in obedience to God in order to do things that appear to be useless to others. Of what value is it, they say, to waste time and resources to speak a word at a particular location? To those who have done such things, the word of the Lord has been spoken through Haggai: “Take courage and work; for I am with you.”
No work of faith is ever wasted. One of the main reasons why God issues such instructions is to allow participation (and reward) for things yet unseen, which may not be fulfilled for many generations. The people in the days of Zerubbabel and Haggai were thus able to help us build the New Temple today, even though they lived long ago.
Those who took courage throughout past centuries, those who heard the voice of God and responded in obedience, those who were willing to overcome the opposition and the ridicule of those without such light—these will not fail to receive the reward given to the generation that finishes the work.
Those who build the second temple by faith can be seen as sowing seeds of the true temple. Each generation after them has had opportunity to water those seeds and cultivate the field. We today are called to continue watering the field until the time of harvest.
Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:6-9,
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
We are all in the same work, each in his/her own way, and as long as we are obedient to the task that God has called us to do, we are “fellow workers” in God’s field. Each will be rewarded according to his faith and obedience.
Hag. 2:5 continues,
5 As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst [tavek, “the middle”]; do not fear!
In those days, the ark was the seat of God’s presence, but the ark had disappeared from their midst. Nonetheless, the Spirit of God was abiding in their midst. This is also a veiled reference to the fact that the Spirit of God was abiding within them. This is ultimately the promise that God made with Israel and with all of us. Under the Old Covenant, God’s presence abode in their midst, but externally in a temple. Under the New Covenant, however, the promise is to abide within them as Immanuel, “God with(in) us.”