By way of reminder, the book of Haggai consists of four basic messages. Haggai’s ministry overlaps with the ministry of Zechariah and both of these two prophets preached contemporary with each other in Jerusalem. This second message is delivered approximately one month later in the 21st day of the seventh month.
The people noticed as they been working on the temple for a period of time that it is far less ornate and does not contain the glory of the original Solomonic temple, to make things worse there are at least five items missing from this Temple that were part of Solomon’s Temple.
1. The ark of the covenant
2. the Shekinah glory
3. the Holy Spirit in reference to prophecy or Revelation
4. the sacred fire
the absence of the Shekinah glory was extremely discouraging. One can only understand what this particular absence meant when one understands the unique role of the Shekinah glory and its definition. Here one can look at Jewish sources and find out what was basically understood by the Shekinah glory in general within Jewish thought. The following quotes should suffice to create a general understanding, ““Divine Presence, the “immanent” or “indwelling” aspect of God.” “Shekhinah n. Hebrew (sheh-khee-NAH) Literally, “dwelling.” “The ancient talmudic name for God’s presence, which is commonly described as a light or radiance that illuminates the world.” In order to better understand the importance of the presence of God manifested in the Shekinah it is important to remember that both the tabernacle and the temple were designed so that God could dwell among his people, His presence among them acted as a sign of His continuing covenant with them. The absence of this particular manifestation of God made this temple seem empty in comparison to the glory of the previous temple. It seemed as though God was not a part of this Temple.
God’s message to this group of returned Jewish exiles is to be strong and finish the work that he had given them. In fact he promises them that the temple which they are building will end up being more glorious and not less glorious than Solomon’s Temple. This begs the question, in what way more glorious? Dr. Michael Brown gives a concise answer to this particular dilemma,
“New Jewish Publication Society Version, Malachi 3:1–5 states: Behold, I am sending My messenger to clear the way before Me, and the Lord whom you seek shall come to His Temple suddenly. As for the angel of the covenant that you desire, he is already coming… According to the famous medieval Jewish commentaries of Radak (David Kimchi) and Metsudat David, “the Lord” refers to none other than “King Messiah.” However, neither of these commentators took sufficient note of the fact that the Messiah was to come to the Temple that stood in Malachi’s day (and note also that it is called “his Temple”—pointing clearly to the divine nature of the “Lord” spoken of here). I ask you, did this happen? If it did, then the Messiah must have come before the Temple was destroyed in 70 c.e.; if not, God’s Word has failed. After reviewing the prophecy, we just read from Haggai 2, we can now put two big pieces of the puzzle together: The glory of the Second Temple would be greater than the glory of the First Temple because the Lord himself—in the person of the Messiah —would visit the Second Temple! And in this place he would grant peace because the Messiah, called “the Prince of Peace,” would come there in person and open the way for peace and reconciliation between God and man.” 17
Now for those who measured worth in terms of results or outward glory the second temple would hardly seem more glorious than the first Temple, missing those five items and the manifest presence of God in the Shekinah. However, that second Temple would carry a weight of glory that the first Temple would never see!
This brings us back to our central truth the weight of value in our work is not measured by the outward things that are so often used in both spiritual and secular spheres. But now this truth can be understood under the backdrop of what the people and Haggai’s day were struggling with and the reasons they felt this great discouragement. And in this way, their admonition becomes an admonition to us. We are to faithfully continue the work that God is given us despite the appearance that sometimes the work of others has a greater glory.
1 Menachem Elon, Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles = Ha-Mishpat Ha-Ivri, A Philip and Muriel Berman ed. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1994), 1572.
2 Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, Jewish Publication Society, The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2001), 150.
3 Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections., vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 77–78.