Desire of All Nations

DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS. A phrase occurring only in Hag.2.7 (kjv). RSV renders “treasures of all nations,” NIV “desired of all nations.” When the temple was erected in Ezra’s time, the prophet was directed to encourage the older men who had seen the more magnificent temple of Solomon and were disappointed with what they now saw, by assuring them that God was with them, and in a little while he would shake the heavens, the earth, the sea, the dry land, and the nations, and “the desire of all nations” would come to fill the house with his glory. Many expositors refer the prophecy to Christ’s first advent, and others to the second advent; still others deny a messianic application altogether, translating “the desire of all nations” by “the desirable things of all nations,” i.e., their precious gifts (cf. Isa.60.5, Isa.60.11; Isa.61.6).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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?

(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