Haggai's Temple Rebuilding

Among all the prophets of Israel, Haggai is unique for his insistence on temple building. When Haggai preached, the Jerusalem temple was still a fire-blackened ruin (cf. 2 Kings 25:9), and so the prophet concentrates almost single-mindedly on the necessity for the Judeans to restore their place of worship on Zion’s hill. Even the zeal of his contemporary Zechariah for the temple pales before Haggai’s ardor for the project, while the vision of the restored temple in Ezekiel 40-48 remains just that – a vision. But Haggai wants the temple rebuilt, and he wants the work on it to begin immediately...

Haggai actually has no thought that God will reward the Judeans with prosperity if they build him a temple – a sort of “you be nice to me and I will be nice to you” religion. Human beings cannot buy the favor of the Lord of the universe. Rather, God yearns to return to this people and to dwell in their midst. The temple is symbolic of that dwelling; and if the Judeans rebuild the temple, their efforts will signal that once more they have turned toward God as he has now turned toward the. The temple will be sign and seal of their renewed hearts’ devotion – the evidence that they have finally come to terms with reality.

- Elizabeth Achtemeier, Nahum-Malachi commentary in the Interpretation Series (Westminster/John Knox, 1988),  p. 99.