The final oracle of Haggai is often viewed as royalist in orientation, with the prophet promoting Zerubbabel as a royal (or even messianic) figure. This study seeks to dispute the majority view. Neither the election terms used nor the metaphor of the “seal” assign a royal identity to him. The focus is on the dual leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua. Nowhere in the prophecy is Zerubbabel identified unequivocally as a Davidide. The temple orientation and the highlighting of divine action show that the establishment of God’s kingdom is in view, not the promotion of Zerubbabel as God’s vice-regent.
This is not a story of failed or deceptive prophecy, but rather an account of Israel’s failure in the face of opposition. YAHWEH’s promise was inherently contingent upon Israel’s willingness to bring it to completion. Their failure to do so is not surprising. Jehoram’s partial success in battle ironically mirrors his partial commitment to YAHWEH (vv. 1-3). As such, the concluding report of Israel’s retreat combines with the introductory report to form a thematic inclusio for the chapter: Those whose commitment to YAHWEH is half-hearted invariably forfeit his blessing.