Desire of All Nations
This phrase occurs only in Hag 2:7 (King James Version, the English Revised Version "desirable things," the American Revised Version, margin "things desired"), and is commonly applied to the Messiah.
At the erection of the temple in Ezra's time, the older men who had seen the more magnificent house of Solomon were disappointed and distressed at the comparison. The prophet, therefore, is directed to encourage them by the assurance that Yahweh is with them nevertheless, and in a little while will shake the heavens, the earth, the sea, the dry land and the nations, and "the desire of all nations" shall come, and the house shall be filled with glory, so that "the later glory of this house shall be greater than the former."
(1) Many expositors refer the prophecy to the first advent of Christ. The shaking of the heavens, the earth, the sea and the dry land is the figurative setting of the shaking of the nations, while this latter expression refers to those changes of earthly dominion coincident with the overthrow of the Persians by the Greeks, the Greeks by the Romans, and so on down to the beginning of our era. The house then in process of construction was filled with glory by the later presence of the Messiah, which glory was greater than the Shekinah of Solomon's time. Objections are presented to this view as follows: First, there is the element of time. Five centuries, more or less, elapsed between the building of Ezra's temple and the first advent of Christ, and the men of Ezra's time needed comfort for the present. Then there is the difficulty of associating the physical phenomena with any shaking of the nations occurring atthe first advent. Furthermore, in what sense, it is asked, could Christ, when He came, be said to be the desire of all nations? And finally, what comfort would a Jew find in this magnifying of the Gentiles?
(2) These difficulties, though not insuperable, lead others to apply the prophecy to the second advent of Christ. The Jews are to be restored to Jerusalem, and another temple is to be built (Eze 40:1-49 through Eze 48:1-35). The shaking of the nations and the physical phenomena find their fulfillment in the "Great Tribulation" so often spoken of in the Old Testament and Revelation, and which is followed by the coming of Christ in glory to set up His kingdom (Mal 3:1; Mt 24:29-30 and other places). Some of the difficulties spoken of in the first instance apply here also, but not all of them, while others are common to both interpretations. One such common difficulty is that Ezra's temple can hardly be identified with that of the time of Herod and Christ, and certainly not with that of Ezekiel; which is met, however, by saying that all the temples, including Solomon's, are treated as but one "house"--the house of the Lord, in the religious sense, at least, if not architecturally. Another such difficulty touches the question of time, which, whether it includes five centuries or twenty, is met by the principle that to the prophets, "ascending in heart to God and the eternity of God, all times and all things of this world are only a mere point." When the precise time of particular events is not revealed, they sometimes describe them as continuous, and sometimes blend two events together, having a near or partial, and also a remote or complete fulfillment. "They saw the future in space rather than in time, or the perspective rather than the actual distance." It is noted that the Lord Jesus so blends together the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, AD 70, and the days of the anti-Christ at the end of this age, that it is difficult to separate them, and to say which belongs exclusively to either (Mt 24:1-51). That the words may have an ultimate fulfillment in the second advent of Christ receives strength from a comparison of Hag 2:21-22 with Heb 12:26-27. The writer of that epistle condenses the two passages in Hag 2:6-7 and Hag 2:21-22, implying that it was one and the same shaking, of which the former verses denote the beginning, and the latter the end. The shaking, in other words, began introductory to the first advent and will be finished at the second. Concerning the former, compare Mt 3:17; 27:51; 28:2; Ac 2:2; 4:31, and concerning the latter, Mt 24:7; Re 16:20; 20:11 (Bengel, quoted by Canon Faussett).
(3) Other expositors seek to cut the Gordian knot by altogether denying the application to the Messiah, and translating "the desire of all nations" by "the beauty," or "the desirable things of all nations," i.e. their precious gifts (see Isa 60:5,11; 61:6). This application is defended in the following way: (a) The Hebrew word means the quality and not the thing desired; (b) the Messiah was not desired by all the nations when He came; (c) the verb "shall come" is plural, which requires the noun to be understood in the plural, whereas if the Messiah be intended, the noun is singular; (d) "The silver is mine," etc. (Hag 2:8) accords with the translation "the desirable things of all nations"; (e) the agreement of the Septuagint and Syriac versions with such rendering.
All these arguments, however, can be fairly met by counter-arguments, leaving the reader still in doubt. (a) An abstract noun is often put for the concrete; (b) the result shows that while the Jews rejected Christ, the Gentiles received and hence, desired Him; (c) where two nouns stand together after the manner of "the desire" and "nations," the verb agrees in number sometimes with the latter, even though the former be its nominative; (d) the 8th verse of the prophecy can be harmonized about as easily with one view as the other; (e) the King James Version is sustained by the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and early Jewish rabbis.
James M. Gray