At the end of the book of Haggai, after Zerubbabel (and through him, Judah) obey God’s command to recommence building the temple, God provides a prophecy and a promise. Haggai 2:21-23 says,
Tell Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, that I am about to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow royal thrones and destroy the power of foreign kingdoms. I will overturn their chariots and riders. The horses will fall, and their riders will kill each other. But when this happens, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, I will honor you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, my servant. I will make you like a signet ring on my finger, says the Lord, for I have chosen you. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!
A signet ring is a small seal, carved into and worn as a ring. Often signet rings contain the owner’s initials, or a symbol unique to the individual. In centuries past, they were worn as a symbol of power, used to certify the authenticity of documents, like a signature. A signet ring is a personal seal, an emblem representing the wearer’s word and agreement.
In my mind the signet ring simile in Haggai encompasses two main realms of meaning. The first is the aspect of power and authority that a signet ring incorporates. In Haggai’s time, kings used signet rings to ratify laws and authenticate contracts and agreements. This promise made to Zerubbabel is therefore in line with his status as governor of Judah. As the leader of God’s people, he was God’s representative; his power was God’s power. God trusted Zerubbabel with enforcing and representing His way and sealing His purpose. As a leader, Zerubbabel was a symbol and a reminder of God’s authority.
The second realm of meaning is the sense of the ring having to do with personal, individual identity. A signet ring is unique to the wearer. God made this promise because Zerubbabel was faithful and obedient. Through such a life, he has the opportunity to authentically represent God and act as a symbol of God’s word, separate from his leadership role. A signet ring also designates ownership, a personal connection between the wearer and the seal. God says in verse 23 “I will take you” and He calls Zerubbabel “my servant,” a term reserved for those closest to God, including David and Moses. In Matthew Henry’s Commentary, he writes, “This intimates the delight the Father has in him. In him he once and again declared himself to be well pleased. He is set as a seal upon his heart, a seal upon his arm, is brought near unto him…”
But the prophecy in Haggai 2 also speaks of a time to come. Verse 23 begins, “In that day” or “when this happens” and Hebrews 12:26 references the Haggai 2 in relation to the end time: “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised. ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’” And in Haggai’s time, many thought that these prophecies and the promise of the signet ring meant Zerubbabel would become king. Instead, King Darius regains control and Zerubbabel is not mentioned again. We know that God’s scope is often larger than ours, and we see from our high perch on the top of a few hundred years that the promise and the prophecy include more than just Zerubbabel’s physical life and his role as governor of Judah.
Christ, through being adopted by Joseph, was legally a descendant of Zerubbabel. In this way, God’s promise could be even more thoroughly fulfilled through Christ, the ultimate signet ring of God. Through His life and example, He was a symbol of God’s way and a perfect physical representation of who God is. He is one with God, and acted as a physical emblem of God the Father. And in His second coming He will perfectly fulfill the aspect of power that signet rings signify, proving God’s true authority. And just as Zerubbabel was obedient in working to build the temple for God, Christ’s work was building the true church, by calling and teaching the people of God.
Even more broadly, we are all being called now for the purpose of becoming kings and priests in God’s kingdom. In that day we will be able to represent the power and authority of God. Therefore we all have the opportunity to fit the role a signet ring requires. And just as Zerubbabel will have the opportunity to fully enjoy God’s promise after he is resurrected, we also can become representatives, symbols of God. Even now, we are spiritual descendants of the remnant of Judah, who through Zerubbabel knew God and how to obey Him and become like Him. The United Church of God Bible Commentary writes, “Zerubbabel…can thus be view as typical of all God’s servants…We can function as God’s signet. God may well have intended Zerubbabel to begin functioning in that capacity while still in the flesh—from that 24th day of Kislev. In it’s entry on ‘signet’ in the context of Haggai 2:23, A Dictionary of Bible Types states: ‘This unusual compliment is probably the greatest given to a man by the living God. He informed Zerubbabel that He would touch his life in such a blessed way that he would leave on every other life he touched the imprint of God and the impress of heaven. His conversation with others and his manner of life with them would make an indelible impression on their hearts and they would know he was a man of God’ (1999, p. 371).”