Haggai is another brief book among the Minor Prophets, being only two chapters and thirty-eight verses long. Along with Zechariah, Haggai encouraged the people to rebuild the temple upon their return from Babylonian exile. He and Zechariah are mention in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14. Haggai’s ministry took place during a four-month period in the second year of the Persian king Darius, in 520 BC, about eighteen years after the people of Judah were allowed to return home following a decree of King Cyrus, who conquered the Babylonians.
Haggai chides the leaders of Judah for living in paneled houses while the temple remains in ruins, which is the cause of the drought they are experiencing. The governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua, along with all the people, respond to Haggai’s plea by commencing work on the temple.
Their efforts are discouraging, however. The rebuilt temple is a shell of the former one. Despite this, Haggai encourages Zerubbabel to remain strong: God will shake heaven, earth, and sea, and then the “desire of all nations” will come and fill God’s house with glory. This likely refers either to the return of the people scattered among the nations or treasures from the nations being brought to the temple. Furthermore, the people themselves will be purified and blessed by God.
The books ends with a promise to Zerubbabel that the nations will be driven to chaos, but he will be like the Lord’s “signet ring” (2:23), which is a ring used as a seal. When impressed in wax, it functioned as a signature signifying ownership. The main idea here is hope for a reestablishment of the monarchy with God’s guarantee behind it. The monarchy was interrupted when King Jehoiachin went into exile in 597 BC, and Jeremiah referred to him as a rejected signet ring (Jeremiah 22:24).