Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying,II.
(1-9) The Third Utterance.—This utterance treats of the glory which, in a later time, is to attach itself to the sacred spot whereon the returned exiles are labouring. It was intended more especially as a message of consolation to those who remembered Solomon’s magnificent structure, and who now gazed sadly on the humble proportions of its successor.
(1) In the one and twentieth day.—Here, again, the day selected is significant. The twenty-first day of the seventh month (Tisri) was the seventh and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. This was the festival of harvest thanksgiving, and its occurrence had always been marked by observances of a peculiarly joyous character. Moreover, the sacrifices on this occasion were very numerous—the number prescribed by the Talmud for the first day exceeding that of any other day in the year. Thus the scanty harvest and the small beginnings of the Lord’s House would both be brought into prominence. It would be but natural if feelings of despondency were excited among those who were old enough to remember the Temple of Solomon, with its costly accessories and elaborate ceremonial, and the festive rites wherewith the “joy in harvest” had expressed itself in a more prosperous time. There is no ground, however, for supposing that the prophet was himself one of these aged persons-
Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,(2) The residue.—See Haggai 1:12, Note.
Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?(3) Is it not . . .—Better, is not such a (Temple) as this like nothing in your eyes?
According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.(5) According to the word.—Better, with the word. The clause is connected with the closing words of Haggai 2:4. Jehovah is present with them, and so is His Promise made by solemn covenant in the days of old.
So my spirit.—Better, and my spirit. Besides such promises of God’s abiding favour as Exodus 29:45-46, they have among them the abiding presence of His Holy Spirit. Having these, let them not be afraid. The evidence of the Divine Presence was the mission of inspired prophets, such as Haggai and Zechariah, and the Targum and the Rabbis are perhaps right in referring the words “and my spirit” exclusively to the “spirit of prophecy.” It may be noticed that the later Jews held that the Holy Spirit left the Church after the deaths of Zechariah and Malachi.
For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;(6) Yet once, it is a little while.—The construction is very difficult. The best rendering appears to be, Yet one season more (supplying êth before achath), it is but a little while, and, &c. The meaning of these clauses is then that given by Keil—viz., “that the period between the present and the predicted great change of the world will be but one period—i.e., one uniform epoch—and that this epoch will be a brief one.” The LXX. (followed in Hebrews 12:27) omits the words “it is a little while” altogether, and so is enabled to render “I will yet shake once” (i.e., one single time, and one only), a rendering which, if we retain those words, is apparently impossible. The fact is, the original passage here, as in other cases, must be treated without deference to its meaning when interwoven in New Testament argument. There is yet to be an interval of time, of limited duration, and then shall come a new era, when the glory of God’s presence shall be manifested more fully and extensively. Notwithstanding its intimate connection with the Jewish Temple (Haggai 2:7; Haggai 2:9), this new dispensation may well be regarded as that of the Messiah, for Malachi in like manner connects His self-manifestation with the Temple. (Comp. Malachi 3:1, and see our Introduction, § 2.) Without pretending to find a fulfilment of all details, we may regard the prophet’s anticipations as sufficiently realised when the Saviour’s Advent introduced a dispensation which surpassed in glory (see 2Corinthians 3:7-11) that of Moses, and which extended its promises to the Gentiles. When Haggai speaks here and in Haggai 2:22 of commotions of nature ushering in this new revelation, he speaks according to the usage of the Hebrew poets, by whom Divine interposition is frequently depicted in colouring borrowed from the incidents of the Exodus period. (See Habakkuk 3; Psalm 18:7-15, Psalms 93, 97) If the words are to be pressed, their fulfilment at Christ’s coming must be searched for rather in the moral than the physical sphere, in changes effected in the human heart (comp. Luke 3:5) rather than on the face of nature.
And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.(7) And the desire of all nations shall come.—Better, and the precious things of all the nations shall come—scil., shall be brought as offerings. (Comp. Zephaniah 3:10; Zechariah 14:16.) So apparently the LXX., ἥξει τὰ ἐκλεκτὰ πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν. The rendering of the Authorised Version, which is based on Jerome’s et venit desideratus cunctis gentibus, is grammatically impossible with the present text, for the verb “come” is plural, not singular. Its retention in some of the modern commentaries is mainly attributable to a natural unwillingness to give up a direct Messianic prophecy. Apart, however, from the grammatical difficulty, it must be remarked that the Messiah was not longed for by all nations, and that if He had been there would be no point in mentioning the fact in the present connection. On the other hand, the prediction of Gentile offerings to the Temple is most appropriate. It is the answer to those who sorrowed when they contrasted the mean appearance of this present house with the glories of that built by Solomon (Haggai 2:3). It also explains the otherwise meaningless utterance in Haggai 2:8. Another possible rendering is that adopted by Fürst, and (at one time) by Ewald, “And the pick of the nations shall come,” scil., with offerings to the Temple. The significance of the utterance is the same with either translation—scil., that by agencies not specified the Gentile world is to be converted and induced to offer worship and homage to Jehovah.
The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.(8) Silver . . . gold.—It is unnatural to suppose that this is said in the sense of Ps. 1:10, as implying “I have no need of silver or gold.” Clearly what is meant is that the treasures of earth are at God’s disposal, and that He will incite the Gentiles to offer their silver and gold in His Temple. A rigid application of this prediction is impossible. (See Introduction, § 2.)
The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.(9) The glory . . .—Better, The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former. The new sanctuary is regarded as identical with that reared by Solomon. It shall have a claim to celebrity unrivalled even in the palmiest days of olden time, when Jehovah shall turn the attention of all nations to His sacred place, as predicted in Haggai 2:6-7.
In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,(10-19) The Fourth Utterance.—The recent season of scarcity is again accounted for and immediate blessings are announced. This address dates about two months later than its predecessor—viz., from the ninth month—scil., Chisleu (November—December), when the early rain would be looked for to water the newly-sown crops. At such a time, especially after the scarcity of the preceding season, there would naturally be great anxiety about agricultural prospects.
If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.(12) Holy flesh.—The flesh of the sacrifice hallowed the person who touched it (Leviticus 6:27), but this sanctification was not conveyed to anything he might afterwards touch. On the other hand (Haggai 2:13), he who was defiled by such a pollution as contact with a dead body, conveyed defilement even to the tabernacle. (See Numbers 19:13 : “Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord.”) Even so, according to Haggai, the guilt of impiety incurred by the Jews in neglecting the Temple had tainted the labour of their hands, and caused famine. And what merit they might claim for restoring the altar-worship and keeping the prescribed feasts (Ezra 3:2-6) was not conveyed further. It was cancelled by their neglect of an equally important duty. This latter point, however, is not brought out, but is left to be supplied by the prophet’s hearers.
Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.(13) Unclean.—The defilement incurred by contact with a dead body was one of the deepest. (See Numbers 19:11-16.) On the force of the term tmê nephesh, compare the passages Leviticus 21:11; Leviticus 22:4; Numbers 6:6.
Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.(14) That which they offer there—i.e., probably, “on yon altar,” but the expression is singular. In Ezra 3:3 we read, “And they set the altar upon his bases. . . . and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening.”
And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD:(15) From this day and upward—i.e., backward.
Before a stone was laid . . .—Alluding to the recent resumption of building, not to the laying of the foundations fifteen years previously.
Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty.(16) Since those days were.—Better, from the time when things were so, or, since such things were—i.e., throughout that whole period of neglect up to the date when they resumed the work of restoration. Throughout that period the harvests had grievously disappointed expectation. A heap of sheaves which ought to have contained “twenty “—the measure is not specified—yielded only “ten;” and a quantity of grapes which should have yielded fifty poorahs, only produced twenty. The word poorah elsewhere means a “wine press;” here, apparently, it is the bucket or vessel which was used to draw up the wine. The last clause of the verse must therefore be rendered “When one came to the pressfat to draw out fifty poorahs, there were but twenty.”
I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.(17) I smote you with blasting and with mildew . . .—This is a reminiscence of Amos 4:9, “I have smitten you with blasting and mildew . . . yet have not ye returned unto me, saith the Lord.” “Blasting” and “mildew” are two diseases on corn enumerated by Moses (Deuteronomy 28:22) among the curses on disobedience. The “hail” is added by Haggai, perhaps as particularly destructive to the vines. On the peculiar phrase, êyn ethcem êlay, which here takes the place of the lô shabtem âday of Amos, see Ewald, Grammar, § 262 b.
Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid, consider it.(18) Even from the day.—Better, even to the day. The rendering of the Authorised Version makes the passage quite unintelligible, for in no sense can the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month coincide with the day “that the foundation of the Lord’s Temple was laid.” The Temple had been founded fifteen years before, in the second month of the second year of Cyrus (Ezra 3:10). The work of building had been carried on intermittently till within two years of the present time. It had then been entirely suspended, and had only been actively taken in hand after Haggai’s address in the sixth month of this year. The force of the passage is sufficiently plain if we render as above. “In order to make the blessings to be announced in Haggai 2:19 appear in strong contrast to the distress pictured in Haggai 2:16-17, the prophet repeats the injunction of Haggai 2:15, but with a larger range of retrospect. The whole period back to the time when the foundation of the Temple was laid in the reign of Cyrus was more or less one of distress on account of the unfaithfulness of the people; for between that time and the present all the efforts that had been made to complete the work were spasmodic and feeble” (McCurdy). The rendering “even to the day” is quite allowable, though the construction is certainly rare.
Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.(19) Is the seed yet in the barn?—i.e., There is no grain as yet in the barn, the harvest having been blighted in the last season. The term rendered in the Authorised Version “seed” does not imply grain for sowing, but grain for provision. The fruit harvest was as defective as that of cereals, having been cut off by the hail. (See Haggai 2:17.) The prospect was thus one of deepest gloom. But human helplessness is God’s opportunity. He pledges His word even at this crisis by the mouth of Haggai, “From this day I will bless.”
And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,(20-23) The Fifth Utterance.—The promise of Haggai 2:6-9 is enlarged. The heathen powers shall be consumed one of another, but the line of Zerubbabel shall stand secure, and be a witness to Jehovah’s faithfulness. Here, as in Haggai 2:6-9, the only satisfactory interpretation is that Haggai was charged with a prediction—purposely vague and indistinct in character—of the extension of God’s kingdom by the Christian dispensation. “Zerubbabel,” the descendant of David, includes in himself Him who was according to the flesh his lineal descendant. Just in the same way in older prophecy “David” is himself identified with that Messiah in whom the glories of the Davidic house were to culminate. (See Psalm 89:19, and comp. Jennings and Lowe, Commentary, Introd. to Psalms 89) It appears as unnecessary to find a literal fulfilment of the prediction of the overthrow of the world-powers, “every one by the sword of his brother,” as of the utterance (repeated from Haggai 2:6), “I will shake the heavens and the earth.” It is true that the empires of Babylon, Persia, Syria, and Greece each in its turn declined and passed away. But in the Roman Empire the world-power was as strongly represented as ever, when Christ came on earth. It was to succumb later on to moral, not to material force. Nothing, in fact, can be extracted from these passages beyond a dim presage of the heathen kingdoms being pervaded by the moral influence of the Christian Church.
In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.(23) Signet.—On the figure of the signet-ring applied to one on whom confidence and affection are bestowed, see Song of Solomon 8:6; Jeremiah 22:24.