Rev. Hanko is pastor in the Protestant Reformed Church of Lynden, Washington. Previous article in this series: January 15, 2005, p. 182.
The Fourth Prophecy: Haggai 2:20-23
Haggai 2:20. And again the word of the Lord came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,
This fourth and last prophecy of Haggai comes on the same day as the previous Word of God, and nearly four months after Haggai began his work. It is addressed to and is about Zerubbabel, the local civil ruler of the returned captives, and it is a word of promise that concerns especially the coming of Christ as the King of God’s people and the great temple builder.
That this prophecy comes on the same day as the last has to do with the fact that it also is a promise of blessing. By this final promise God shows how He will preserve and increase the blessings promised in the previous prophecy and looks ahead to even greater blessings that would come through Christ as King.
Motyer very beautifully gives an overall view of this final prophecy. He says:
The final verses of his book reveal Haggai as the literary equivalent of an impressionist painter—he gives general tone and effect without elaborate detail. His colors are the thunderstorm and the earthquake (
and civil conflict
As in a carefully composed picture, where every stroke is designed to lead the eye to what is central, so here too the focus is like a shaft of sunlight illuminating one item—a ring shining on a finger
Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;
There is some question about Zerubbabel’s father. He is usually identified as Shealtiel, but there is one passage in the genealogy of I Chronicles in which Zerubbabel is said to be the son of Pedaiah (I Chron. 3:17-19). There are different possibilities suggested with regard to this difficulty. Perhaps the most likely is that Pedaiah was Zerubbabel’s actual father, but that after he died, his widow married Salathiel, or that Zerubbabel went to live with Salathiel, who would have been his uncle. That God continually identifies him as the son of Shealtiel is a reminder of his descent from David.
That is the important thing. Zerubbabel was of the royal line of David, through Jeconiah (I Chron. 3:16), more familiarly known in Scripture as Jehoiachin (Matt. 1:11, 12). This king, himself a wicked man, was the grandson of king Josiah of Judah. He ruled for only three months before he was taken away to Babylon and imprisoned there. It was through him, though, that the royal line of David was continued. Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, a brother of Jehoiachin, was blinded and his sons were all killed when Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Of Zedekiah we hear no more in Scripture, but Jehoiachin was released from prison by the Babylonian king, Evil-merodach, and given a position of authority in Babylon (Jer. 52:31-34). It was then and there that he must have married and had children, thus preserving the royal seed of David as God had promised. Zerubbabel was his grandson, born in Babylon.
Zerubbabel, as a descendant of David and heir to the throne of David, is addressed here. There is a recognition of his royal prerogative in his identification as governor of Judah, and the promise that God makes to him is really a promise to restore the throne and power of the line of David. In doing this, God says, He will overthrow all earthly thrones, particulary those that had taken captive and oppressed David’s descendants.Indeed, Zerubbabel functions in this prophecy as a type of Christ.
In his office and as seed of David he foreshadows the great Ruler of God’s people, the Seed of David par excellence. Christ is the Servant of Jehovah, who is addressed here through Zerubbabel, and it is Christ more than Zerubbabel who will be made like a signet on the hand of God. It is He who is chosen by Jehovah of hosts to defeat those who have made war against God’s people and whose throne will be over all.
God’s first word to Zerubbabel connects this prophecy with the second, for once again God speaks of the great earthquake that will destroy this present world, the earthquake that would accompany the coming of the Desire of all nations. That earthquake would begin at the first coming of Christ and the shaking that accompanied it, and would culminate in the complete destruction of all things.
That shaking, as we have seen, has as its purpose the removal of temporal things, that only those things that are God’s work may remain. Here that shaking will be the occasion for raising the throne of David from the low condition into which it had fallen and for making it glorious above all other thrones and kingdoms.
It is that shaking, as interpreted in Hebrews 12:25-29, that makes it clear that this prophecy is about Zerubbabel only as a type of Christ, for in the lifetime of Zerubbabel the throne of David was never restored to its former glory. He was only governor, and is so identified in the prophecy. Though that was a fairly high position in the Persian empire, he was nevertheless under the rule of the Persian kings, and his position was of little account in comparison to that of David, his illustrious ancestor.
Before Christ came, the throne of David would lose even the little glory that it had in the days of Zerubbabel and be reduced to nothing. By the time Jesus was born, the line of David had been reduced to one woman (Luke 1:34), and the descendants of David had no authority or power any longer. Some of the Jews, the Herodians (Matt. 22:16; Mark 3:6; Mark 12:13), had given up on the line of David and had become supporters of bloody and cruel Herod and his family as the God-appointed rulers of Israel and the continuation of God’s promises to David.
Haggai 2:22. And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots and them that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.
Here God shows that the shaking prophesied would be the judgment and destruction of the nations. They and their thrones would, by this shaking, be removed, that only the throne of Christ, which cannot be shaken, might remain. God is speaking here of all earthly kingdoms, as is clear from the description of them as the kingdoms of the heathen. There are no other kinds of kingdoms that belong to this present world. They would all be destroyed.
The reference to horses and chariots is a reminder of the temporal might of these kingdoms. Such indications of earthly power were forbidden to the Jews (Deut. 17:16; Ps. 20:7). Their trust and strength was Jehovah Himself, who here foretells the ruin and fall of all the kingdoms of this present world and all their might.
That began at the first coming of Christ. Even Herod recognized the threat that Christ posed to the kingdoms of this world, as did Pilate. It was fulfilled in principle at the cross, which is the judgment of this world, and it is finished in the destruction of all things and the judgment of the nations that takes place at the end of the world when Christ returns.
God accomplishes this throughout history by keeping the nations at war with one another. Persia was the ruin of Babylon, Greece of Persia, and Rome of them all. Even the kingdom of Antichrist, which God will use to bring down all other power and authority, shall be destroyed in this way. Those kings and kingdoms that give their power to the Beast will in the end turn against the Beast and the whore and make them desolate and naked (Rev. 17:16-18).
This warfare among the nations, through which the kingdoms and their power come down, every one by the sword of his brother, is not only the means by which God controls and directs these kingdoms and prevents their premature development, but is also the way in which He brings His judgment on the nations, culminating in the great battle that will immediately precede the coming of Christ (Rev. 16:14; Rev. 20:8).
That shaking of the nations would be, God tells Zerubbabel, the way in which He would once again exalt the throne and power of David and bring all nations under the sway of David’s scepter. Only, of course, God is speaking not of David personally, or of David’s descendant Zerubbabel, but of Christ, in whom all the prophecies of David and his throne have their fulfillment:
He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Christ is the King who rules forever on that throne. His kingdom alone is everlasting. He is Lord of lords and King of kings.
Haggai 2:23. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.
If the day referred to, the day of the shaking of all things, is indeed the great day of the Lord, the day that begins with Christ’s coming in the flesh and ends with His return for judgment, then the reference here is not so much to Zerubbabel as to Christ. Indeed, it must be so, for this is a promise of the restoration of the kingdom and of the royal rule of David’s descendants, something that did not happen during the days of Zerubbabel, but happened only when Christ came, born of the seed of David, to rule forever on the throne of David.
The signet of which God speaks is a royal ring, used to seal documents, both to make them tamper-proof and to indicate that they contained the decrees and statutes of the king. It is in that reference to a signet, then, that we find the evidence that God is indeed speaking of the royal line and throne of David. That Zerubbabel is described as a signet is due to the fact that the royal power he represented is really the power of God Himself. He and all David’s descendants were nothing more than that—signets on the hand of the King of kings, evidences of the power of Him who had given the throne to David in the first place, the one to whom the throne and all its power belonged.
This promise reverses a previous threat made to Zerubbabel’s grandfather, Jehoiachin, also called Jeconiah or Coniah:
As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence.
There we see not only that this signet is on the hand of God, whose power and authority the kings of Judah represented like a signet ring, but we see also God’s faithfulness to David. To pluck the ring from His hand would be to take the kingdom away from David, and though He removed from David all the trappings and power of the kingdom, He never abandoned His promise, but fulfilled it, and that in a way unlooked for, in Christ.
* Motyer, Haggai, vol. III, p. 1000.