v1: The second year of Darius, see Ezra 4.24; see also Ezra 5.1; 6.14-15, where there is reference to the prophets who encouraged the work of rebuilding. The building has ceased, due to the decree of Artaxerxes.
There is also Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, of the line of King David; and Joshua, high priest, of the line of Aaron.
v2: The people have been taken in by an attitude of fatalism; they assume that events mean that the time is not right for rebuilding the temple. They fail to see that the delay is due to the work of their enemies. The challenge is now to move forward in spite of opposition.
v3-4: There is time for some things, but not others; the delay in building the temple has allowed the people the opportunity to build their "panelled houses." There is a challenge here to their priorities.
v5: "Give careful thought," or 'consider your ways.' This is the key thought of this small book; stand back, look at what is happening, see the spiritual reality behind the circumstances; compare 1 Cor 11.28.
v6: The Lord is not ignorant of their misplaced priorities; their efforts to enrich themselves have been futile, sowing seed, eating food, drinking, wearing clothes, earning wages; all futile.
v7: As in v5; the Lord is very gracious, giving the people opportunity to consider what is happening.
v8: Now is the time to put God's things first, to bring Him pleasure and honour.
v9-11: The people put their own interests first, and found their efforts in vain (v6); but this was God's doing, "What you brought home I blew away...I called for a drought." Their poverty is not just a result of natural circumstances, but the Lord's rebuke. Yet we see that God is merciful to His own, for He continued to preserve them and to provide for them.
v12: The leaders and the people joined in obeying what God said. They feared the Lord.
v13: The Lord's immediate encouragement, "I am with you," the promise of His presence. This is all they need to face the trials that lie ahead.
v14-15: They get on with the job, their spirits having been stirred up by the Lord. Note that their sins were sins of omission, neglecting to do what the Lord commanded. Now, some 23 days after Haggai began speaking to them, they press on with the work.