The second Chislev 24 prophecy, found in Haggai 2:20-23, spells out a readily identifiable blessing: righteous leadership.
This prophecy contains, among other things, the fulfillment of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. God is describing the time when, as it says in Revelation 11:15, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.” It is the time when the divine Stone strikes the Gentile kingdoms on the feet, and they are all blown away and consumed by God's Kingdom, as Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream (Daniel 2:35, 44-45).
God will shake heaven and earth, as is described by the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12-13) and which is also mentioned in Haggai 2:6 (see also Matthew 24:29, 35; Mark 13:25; Luke 21:26; II Peter 3:10). At that time, Israel and Judah will be reunited, and more importantly, reunited with God, who will be ruling from a liberated and cleansed Jerusalem. At the time God gave this prophecy, the Jews were still living under the shadow of the Gentile Persian Empire, so it held great hope for those hearing it.
Verse 23 singles out Zerubbabel, and though there may be several lesser fulfillments of this, it is vital to recognize the real, ultimate fulfillment. The name Zerubbabel means “seed of Babylon” or “planted in Babylon.” He became the governor of Judah after the Babylonian captivity. As a scion of the Davidic line, he was also part of Jesus' lineage on Joseph's side (Matthew 1:12-13).
Zerubbabel was indeed a prominent figure in what God was working out, but we must keep in mind that the One who ultimately fulfilled his role is Jesus Christ, the epitome of a righteous ruler. In the same way, the ultimate fulfillment of Joshua's role as High Priest is also Jesus Christ. Zerubbabel is called God's servant, but so is Christ (Matthew 12:18; John 13:16; Acts 3:13, 26; 4:27, 30; Romans 15:8). Zerubbabel was chosen, but so was Christ (Matthew 12:18; Luke 23:35; I Peter 2:4). Zerubbabel received God's seal, but so did Christ (John 6:27).
Just as God chose Abraham and promised to bless all nations through him, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, and Judah to bring forth the Messiah, so God chose Zerubbabel and his Descendant—his most important Descendant—to be His signet or signature ring. God set His seal on Zerubbabel, but more importantly, He set His seal on Zerubbabel's holy Descendant, the Messiah.
When God takes note of Judah's uncleanness, and her disastrous focus—idolatry—His promised blessing will be the means by which He will turn those things around. He will restore Israel's and Judah's lands and cities to them, and He will give them the definitive Governor and the ultimate High Priest. Zerubbabel and Joshua are just types of what Christ will later fulfill.
David C. Grabbe
Cleansing God's People
The Bible contains the record of one extended family of people and its checkered history with God. The book of Genesis reveals the beginning of Israel through the fathers, and Exodus shows their first faltering steps. Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy define what God required of them—namely, for them to be holy. Joshua through II Chronicles contain their many adventures and misadventures as they continually turned from God. God also inspired seventeen prophetic books in the Old Testament to instruct His people, to correct them, and to warn them. These books were penned mostly before their captivity, but several were written after the Babylonian captivity of the Kingdom of Judah.
The book of Haggai is one such post-exilic work. The immediate application of the prophecies it contains is the work on the Second Temple, but they incorporate definite dualities with end-time events. Of note in the last two prophecies of Haggai is God's desire to bless His covenant people, even when they do not deserve it. They stress that God blesses to improve the condition of His people, especially spiritually.
Haggai received the last two prophecies on the same day. Haggai 2:10 and 20 identify that day as the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, which is called Kislev (or Chislev). Kislev falls during November and December on the Gregorian calendar, near the beginning of winter. This date—Kislev 24—is easy to find on the calendar because it is always the day before the Jews celebrate Hanukkah on the twenty-fifth of Kislev. These prophecies in Haggai were given on, and refer to, the previous day.
Historically, this date has been highly significant on several occasions. It was on Kislev 24 that the Temple was freed from its desecration by Antiochus IV (“Epiphanes”). The cleansing of the Temple began that evening, which, since it was after sunset, was technically Kislev 25. That is the origin of Hanukkah.
A lesser-known fact is that it was also on Kislev 24 in 1917, during WWI, that British troops liberated Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire. We can see that this is a significant date in Jerusalem's history, and considering the dualities of these prophecies, it may be significant again.
David C. Grabbe
Cleansing God's People
When God takes note of Judah's uncleanness, and her disastrous focus—idolatry—His promised blessing will be the means by which He will turn those things around. He will restore Israel's and Judah's lands and cities to them, and He will give them the definitive Governor and the ultimate High Priest. Zerubbabel and Joshua are just types of what will be fulfilled later by Christ.
When we understand this, we can better understand the imagery in Haggai 2:19: “Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.”
Recall that Kislev 24 is in the winter, a time of short days and long nights. Farmers have long completed their harvesting, and everyone hopes that they have stored away enough to last until the vines, trees, and crops begin producing fruit again. Remember, also, that this particular harvest was probably sparse because of God's curse on their crops.
Winter, even in a good year, is not usually a time of blessing. It is often a difficult time, one of making use of the blessings that came in previous seasons. Yet God chose this specific date, which in some years could even be the shortest day of the year. He selected this bleakest of times to start His blessing—a blessing whose highest fulfillment will be found in the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
This scenario sets up an intriguing possibility. We know that Jesus was born sometime in the fall. If we count back nine months from the fall, we arrive at a date in winter. Is it possible, then, that Kislev 24 is the date when the power of the Most High God overshadowed Mary and caused her to conceive the Messiah (Luke 1:35)?
Verse 19 contains a curious play on words that may support this possibility. A question is asked, “Is the seed still in the barn?” The word translated as “seed” is also rendered “child” or “posterity.” Remember that Zerubbabel means “seed of Babylon,” but also recall that when God tells Abraham, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18; 28:14; emphasis ours), the Seed to which He refers is Jesus Christ, forty-two generations later (see also John 7:42; Romans 1:3; Galatians 3:16, 19).
Haggai 2:19 describes a time when the seeds from the previous harvest are not in the barn because they have been planted, but it is before any fruit was produced. It could also, then, describe a Child who has been conceived, but not yet born—and through that Child the blessing on Judah and Israel, the church, and eventually, the entire world would come. Again, this is speculation, but Jesus' conception on this date could be another application of what God means when He says, “from this day I will bless.”
However, regardless of whether this speculation is correct, we see that God is incredibly active in the lives of His people and quite willing to shake heaven and earth to bless. Yes, God gives physical blessings, but the far more meaningful ones are not material in nature.
David C. Grabbe
Cleansing God's People
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Haggai 2:23: