Haggai’s fourth oracle comes on the same day as his third, that is, the day on which the foundation of the temple is laid. As Judah gathered to celebrate the occasion (cf. Ezra 3:10-13), Haggai addressed first the priests and people (2:10-19) and now he specifically addresses Zerubabel who is the governor of Judah (2:20-23).
Zerubabel himself had laid the foundation stone (cf. Zechariah 4:8). Along with the priests, he is a leader in the festivities. He represents the house (dynasty) of David. While he is no king since he serves the Persian Emperor Darius, his line is a royal one and that line carries the hope of Israel for the future. Haggai address this royal hope. Zerubabel’s royal lineage—his connection to David as the “son of Shealtiel”—is what is important and not his present governorship. Haggai looks to the future.
Haggai’s message to Zerubabel is astounding. It not only reverses a divine judgment from the days of Jeremiah, but it renews the Abrahamic and Davidic promises.
Previously, Haggai used the language of shaking heaven and earth to announce that God would insure that the wealth of the nations would flow into Judah in order to enrich the glory of this second temple. In that promise the nations would share their wealth with Judah and the temple would again—even surpass previous episodes—experience glory. God will glorify his temple.
However, Haggai now uses this language—the shaking of heaven and earth—to describe the subjugation of the nations. God will overthrow thrones and shatter the power of the nations. He will create such havoc among the nations that they will slaughter each other and undermine their military power. The nations will destroy themselves in their violence (“sword”).
Consequently, Zerubabel (and the people as well) need not fear the power of the mighty Empires who in their arrogance believe they achieve something significant and rule by their own power. The kingdom of God, that is, the reign of God, will undermine the kingdoms of this world.
“That day” is coming, says Yahweh. Like in Zechariah 12-14, “that day” is an eschatological, future day. The fall of the nations will be the “day of the Lord” which promises the fall of God’s enemies. It is, ultimately, an eschatological day when God will finally and fully shake heaven and earth, destroy the last enemies, and renew the creation in a new heaven and new earth.
“On that day” the Davidic line (“son of Shealtiel”) will sit upon the throne of God and rule over the new heaven and new earth. Haggai promises Zerubabel, that despite all appearances, that day will come. God promises this by making him “like [his] signet ring.”
This is an important statement as it recalls a text in Jeremiah 22:24-30. Jehoiachin, who suffered exile in Babylon, is compared to a “signet ring” that God removes from his hand and throws away into another country. The signet ring was a piece of jewelry used to seal documents. It represented the king himself and, in this case, the king of Judah represented Yahweh. But Jehoiachin failed to imitate Yahweh and thus is removed from God’s hand.
Moreover, Jeremiah promised that none of Jehoiachin’s offspring who went with him into exile would ever sit on the throne. The throne of David is emptied and left vacant. But is the promise thus vacated? Is the throne of David dead?
Absolutely not! The signet ring that was removed (Jehoiachin) is now placed on a descendent of David one who was born in exile (Zerubabel). God, in renewal of the Davidic promise, anoints Zerubabel as the Davidic successor. Zerubabel is not one of the offspring of Jehoiachin who went into exile but he is his grandson who was born in exile. God renews the Davidic covenant with Zerubabel, and thus renews the hope of that the kingdom of God will yet fill the earth as the prophets, including Isaiah and Zechariah, have promised.
Zerubabel receives this promise but even more he typifies or symbolizes the reign of the coming kingdom of God in God’s Anointed (Messiah). Zerubabel himself would not see the day when the kingdoms of the earth would be overthrown by Yahweh, though he did see revolts in Babylon and Egypt against the Persian Empire defeated. But his offspring—one from the line of David—would eventually defeat those kingdoms.
That one reigns even now at the right hand of God where he must reign until every enemy is defeated. On “that day” the Messiah will defeat the kingdoms of this world and death itself and thus reign upon the Davidic throne in the new Jerusalem in the new heaven and new earth.
Lord, come quickly!