Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying,1–5. The Circumstances out of which the Prophecy arose
1. In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month] It has been pointed out that this was the seventh and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-36; Leviticus 23:39-43); and it has been suggested that the depressing contrast between the former Temple and the present would be heightened and brought home to the people by the rites and services of the festive season. “The return of this festal celebration, especially after a harvest which had turned out very miserably, and showed no signs of the blessing of God, could not fail to call up vividly before the mind the difference between the former times, when Israel was able to assemble in the courts of the Lord’s house, and so to rejoice in the blessings of His Grace in the midst of abundant sacrificial meals, and the present time, when the altar of burnt sacrifice might indeed be restored again, and the building of the temple be resumed, but in which there was no prospect of erecting a building that would in any degree answer to the glory of the former temple.” Keil’s Minor Prophets, Clark’s Theol. Libr. See also Pusey ad loc.
Ch. Haggai 2:1-9. The Second Prophecy
The first prophecy had been one of severe rebuke and earnest call to duty. The second is one of encouragement to those, who having promptly obeyed the first, were in danger of being depressed and disappointed by the comparative meagreness and unworthiness of the results of their labours. When the foundations of the second Temple were laid some years before this, we read of the distress which its character and dimensions occasioned, to those of the returned captives who were old enough to remember the former Temple in its glory. The joyous shouts of the younger portion of the assembly, who rejoiced to see the sanctuary of their faith restored, blended strangely with the sad lamentations of their elders, who mourned over the departed splendour of the past. Now that a month of vigorous work was beginning to tell, and the contrast which had been apparent even in the foundations stood out in bolder relief in the rising walls of the edifice; now that many an “ancient man,” laudator temporis acti, had passed his disparaging comment on each new feature of the growing structure, and told with fond regret of the “exceeding magnifical” house (1 Chronicles 22:5) that had once been there, the danger of dejection and discouragement on the part of the people was increased. With the gracious design of counteracting this, Haggai is directed to deliver a prophecy, which stimulates them to carry on and complete their undertaking, not only by the assurance of the divine presence and favour, but by the promise that in God’s good time that house, so mean and despised, should be filled with a glory that should exceed that of Solomon’s Temple in the days of its greatest magnificence.
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,
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. Who is left among you? &c.] When the foundations of this Temple were laid in the second year of Cyrus there were many such. Now after sixteen more years, when seventy years had elapsed since the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, the number must have been greatly diminished. Old men of fourscore years or thereabouts they must now have been.
how do ye see it?] Lit., what (i.e. of what kind) do ye see it. Comp. 1 Kings 9:13, where Hiram in displeasure at the cities given him by Solomon exclaims, “what cities are these (pr. quid urbium hoc, Gesen.) which thou hast given me, my brother?”
in comparison of it] These words should be omitted as in R.V. They were inserted in A.V. through a misunderstanding of the Hebrew idiom.
“Besides the richness of the sculptures in the former Temple, everything which admitted of it was overlaid with gold; Solomon overlaid the whole house with gold, until he had finished all the house, the whole altar by the oracle, the two cherubims, the floor of the house, the doors of the Holy of Holies and the ornaments of it, the cherubims thereon, and the palm trees he covered with gold fitted upon the carved work; the altar of gold and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was, the ten candlesticks of pure gold, with the flowers and the lamps and the tongs of gold, the bowls, the snuffers and the basons and the spoons and the censers of pure gold, and hinges of pure gold for all the doors of the Temple. The porch that was in the front of the house, twenty cubits broad and 120 cubits high, was overlaid within with pure gold; the house glistened with precious stones; and the gold (it is added) was gold of Parvaim, a land distant of course and unknown to us. Six hundred talents of gold (about £4,320,000) were employed in overlaying the Holy of Holies. The upper chambers were also of gold; the weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold.” Pusey.
Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:4. and work] Lit., do, so David says to Solomon, “be strong and be alert, and do,” 1 Chronicles 28:20. The use of this word, “to do,” absolutely, is frequent in Hebrew, often of Almighty God as the agent, the context defining what is done. See Psalm 22:31; Ezra 10:4; Isaiah 44:23; Amos 3:6.
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] The words “according to” are wanting in the Hebrew, but are properly supplied in A. V. and R. V. It has been proposed to regard the last clause of ver. 4 as parenthetical, and make the beginning of this verse grammatically dependent on the word “do” in ver. 4. It would then read: “Be strong and do (for I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts) the word that I covenanted with you,” &c. But such a construction is harsh and the meaning elicited unsatisfactory. The first clause of ver. 5 is thrown out in the abrupt forcible style of Haggai, and gives the ground both of the foregoing and of the following assurance. The ancient covenant with their fathers is as it were called up before them as a witness to the truth of the present promises: “I am with you saith the Lord of Hosts—(‘see,’ ‘remember,’ or ‘there stands’) the word which I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt!—and my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” The student of the Greek Testament will be reminded of a somewhat similar construction in St Peter’s address to Cornelius and his company, (τὸν λόγον, κ.τ.λ. Acts 10:36).
so my spirit remaineth] Or, and my spirit abode, R. V. Comp. Isaiah 63:11; Zechariah 4:6.
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. saith the Lord of hosts] The frequent recurrence of this expression, which is found here four times in as many verses, is a marked feature of the prophecies of Haggai and of Malachi, and of some sections of that of Zechariah. It is of the nature of an appeal to the power and resources of Almighty God, either as here to awaken the confidence, or as elsewhere to subdue the contumacy of the Jews. The expression is properly elliptical for “Jehovah (the God) of hosts.” See Appendix, note A.
yet once, it is a little while] It has been proposed to render this: “Yet one (a) little while, and I will shake,” &c. Luther has, Es ist noch ein Kleines dahin, and Calvin, Adhuc unum modicum hoc. Similarly Maurer and Hengstenberg. But grammatical considerations are in favour of the A. V. and R. V.
yet once] or, once again. “By the word yet he looks back to the first great shaking of the moral world, when God’s revelation by Moses and to His people broke upon the darkness of the pagan world, to be a monument against heathen error till Christ should come; once looks on and conveys that God would again shake the world, but once only, under the one dispensation of the Gospel, which should endure to the end.” Pusey.
a little while] The explanation which interprets this to mean little in the sight of God, with whom a thousand years are as one day, is forced and unsatisfactory. “The prophet,” as Hengstenberg points out (Christol. iii. p. 270, Clark’s Translation), “lays stress upon the brevity of the time in this case, for the purpose of administering consolation. But only what is short in human estimation would be fitted to accomplish this.” Nor is it better to say that the 517 years which were to elapse to the birth of Christ were a little while “in respect to the time which had elapsed from the fall of Adam, upon which God promised the Saviour Christ,” or “in respect to the Christian law, which has now lasted above 1800 years, and the time of the end does not seem yet nigh.” Pusey. 500 years is not a little while in comparison of any known epoch of human history. The true explanation would seem to be that it is not the actual birth of Christ, but the preparation for that event in the “shaking of all nations,” (ver. 7) to which the little while refers. The whole grand future, embracing not only the first but the second coming of Christ and the final consummation of all things, is indeed included in the prophecy. But it was the beginning of the great drama, not its last act, that was then closely at hand. That beginning was the then immediate object of the Church’s hope; in that she was to welcome the promise and the presage of all that should follow. Time alone would unfold the plot. In prophetic prospect coming events were confused and blended, just as in our Lord’s great prophecy were the circumstances of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world. But the beginning was near at hand. “This shaking commenced immediately. The axe was already laid at the root of the Persian empire, whose subsequent and visible fall was but the manifestation of a far earlier one, which had been hidden from view.” (Hengstenberg). Our Lord’s use of a similar expression when He says to His disciples, “A little while and ye shall not see me, and again a little while and ye shall see me” (St John 16:17), may serve to illustrate its significance here. On His lips the “little while” had a three-fold reference; first to the few days before they should see Him again in His risen body; next to the few weeks before He would come to them in the Pentecostal gift of His Spirit; lastly to the interval, which in the retrospect will seem “a little while,” before His second personal advent.
I will shake the heavens, &c.] That political convulsions are here predicted is clear from the clause in ver. 7, “I will shake all nations;” as well as from the passage, ch. Haggai 2:21-22, which clearly refers back to this prediction, and explains the shaking of the heaven and the earth by the words, “I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen,” etc. ver. 22. But there is no reason to exclude physical convulsions also. In the earlier revelation of God on Mount Sinai, to which, as we have seen, there is an allusion here, they bore a prominent part. And when, as the inspired writer to the Hebrews teaches us, this prophecy shall receive its final accomplishment in the “removing of those things that are shaken as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain,” the whole material frame of the universe will be convulsed. Hebrews 12:27, with 2 Peter 3:10-12.
6–9. The Prophecy Itself
In accordance with the ancient covenant, as a fresh manifestation of its perpetual virtue and undying life (for “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” Romans 11:29), God will yet again interfere on behalf of His Church and people. And this interference shall be on a scale of grandeur surpassing even the solemn pomp of Mount Sinai, and shall result in a world-wide fame and accumulated glory to the Temple, such as in the palmiest days of old it had never known.
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. I will shake all nations] “There was a general shaking upon earth before our Lord came. Empires rose and fell. The Persian fell before Alexander’s; Alexander’s world-empire was ended by his sudden death in youth; of his four successors two only continued, and they, too, fell before the Romans; then were the Roman civil wars, until under Augustus, the temple of Janus was shut.” Pusey. The second and third of Daniel’s four great kingdoms, the Medo-Persian and the Græco-Macedonian, and (if with some we identify it with the successors of Alexander in Syria and Egypt) the fourth kingdom also, were to pass away before our Lord appeared. Daniel 2:36-45.
the desire of all nations shall come] Setting aside various other renderings of these words which have little to recommend them—e.g. “I will shake all nations, and they (all nations) shall come with the desire (the desirable things) of all nations (in their hands as offerings);” or, “they shall come to the desire of all nations;” or yet again, “the choicest of nations, nobilissimi omnium populorum, shall come,”—and adhering to the rendering of the A. V., we have two principal interpretations to choose between. There is the view that Christ Himself is here spoken of as “the Desire of all nations” (et veniet desideratus gentibus, Vulgate), i.e. He for Whom all nations consciously or unconsciously yearn, in Whom alone all the longings of the human heart find satisfaction. Very beautiful, as well as very Christian, is the idea thus conveyed: Christ, “the longed-for of the nations before He came, by that mute longing of need for that which it wants as the parched ground thirsteth for the rain.” Archbishop Trench has worked it out in some particulars in a course of Hulsean lectures under the title, “Christ, the Desire of all nations, or the unconscious prophesyings of heathendom.” But interesting as is this view, and strong the temptation to maintain it at any cost, there are objections to it which cannot satisfactorily be overcome. The word “desire” is in the singular number, the verb “shall come” is in the plural. It is literally “the desire of all nations they shall come.” To the difficulty of understanding this of a person it does not seem a sufficient answer, to describe it as “the delicacy of the phrase, whereby manifoldness is combined in unity, the object of desire containing in itself many objects of desire;” as “a great heathen master of language said to his wife, ‘fare you well, my longings,’ i.e. she who manifoldly met the longings of his heart, and had in herself manifold gifts to content them” (Pusey). Still more difficult is it to make this view harmonise with the context. The following verse is, The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of Hosts. It is forced and unnatural to make these words mean, “I have no need of gold or silver. The whole wealth of the world is mine. I could adorn this house with silver and gold if I would; but such things are worthless in my sight. I will fill it with divine and spiritual glory instead.” Comp. Psalm 50:10-12.
 It has recently been pointed out by a writer in the Guardian newspaper, that the words here quoted by Dr Pusey, “Valete, mea desideria, valete,” do not refer to his wife Terentia alone, but to his wife, son and daughter, to all three of whom the Epistle is addressed. A glance at the Epistle (xiv. 2) will suffice to shew that this is the case, and that consequently they have no bearing upon the passage under consideration.
We are led, therefore, to adopt another view, which has been accepted by some ancient and most modern commentators. According to it the passage may be paraphrased as follows: “I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations (the object of desire, that which each nation holds most desirable, its best and chiefest treasure, ‘the desirable things,’ R. V.) shall come (the plural verb denoting the manifoldness and variety of the gifts); and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of Hosts. However distributed, and by whomsoever possessed, the treasures of the whole world are still in my hand, and I can dispose and bestow them at my will. Doubt not, therefore, my promise that they shall be poured forth as willing offerings to beautify and adorn my house.” Thus understood, the prophecy agrees substantially with many other prophecies of the Old Testament. Thus Isaiah writes, “The abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces (i.e. ‘resources’ or ‘wealth:’ it is as here a singular noun with a plural verb) of the Gentiles shall come unto thee:” and he adds in almost verbal accordance with this prophecy of Haggai, “they shall bring gold and incense,” and “I will glorify the house of my glory.” Isaiah 60:5-7; Isaiah 60:11; Isaiah 60:13; Isaiah 60:17. See also Isaiah 61:6. Nor is the Messianic reference of the prophecy excluded or obscured by this interpretation. He who satisfies the desire of all nations will call forth and receive the willing offering to Himself of all they hold most desirable, in grateful acknowledgment of the satisfaction they find in Him. It was because the babe of Bethlehem was the desire of the Eastern sages that they first fell down and worshipped Him, and then opened their treasures and presented unto Him gold and frankincense and myrrh. Reaching on as we have seen to the consummation of all things, the prophecy includes all Christian gifts and offerings to the temple of God, material or spiritual, and will find its full accomplishment in that city of which it is written, “the kings and the nations of the earth shall bring their glory and honour into it.” Revelation 21:24; Revelation 21:26. (See a letter on the interpretation of this passage by the late Bp. Thirlwall, Essays, Appendix, p. 467.)
The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.
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 of this latter house, &c.] Rather, the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former (as in R.V.); the Temple, whether as built by Solomon or now rebuilt, being regarded as one and the same house, the one only house of God. See ver. 3.
The glory here promised is first and most obviously material glory, the desirable things, the precious gifts of all nations. But it includes the spiritual glory, without which in the sight of God material splendour is worthless and unacceptable. Christ Himself, present bodily in the temple on Mount Sion during His life on earth, present spiritually in His Church now, present in the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem, of which He is the Temple (Revelation 21:22), calling forth the spiritual worship and devotion, and as the legitimate and necessary expression of that, the wealth and treasure of all nations, is the glory here predicted. But all this is rather implied, to be discerned by the Church in the growing light of its fulfilment, than expressed, to be understood by those to whom the prophecy was first delivered.
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. the four and twentieth day of the ninth month] This was in November or December. The people had now for three months (Haggai 1:14-15) been actively engaged in the work of restoration. Two months had elapsed (Haggai 2:1) since they were encouraged, under the depression caused by the comparative meanness of the second temple, by a prophecy of the surpassing glory which should accrue to it. Their constancy in the work is now further rewarded, by a renewed promise of the removal of the blight and famine which their neglect had caused, and of the full return of plenty and prosperity.
10–19. The Third Prophecy
By a reference to the ceremonial law, as officially interpreted by the priests in answer to questions addressed to them, Haggai again impresses upon the people the truth, that the dearth and distress from which they had hitherto suffered was the consequence of their national sin in neglecting to rebuild the temple, and again promises that now that they had put away that sin, and were honestly giving themselves to the work of restoration, the blessing of God should rest upon them. The sanctifying influence of flesh, which by being offered to God in sacrifice had become holy, could only extend, so the priests on the authority of the law declared, to that with which it came into first and immediate contact. Beyond that limit its efficacy did not reach. The thing touched by it was itself made holy, but did not become in its turn a vehicle of holiness to anything beyond. Not so, however, was it with that which by contact with ceremonial uncleanness had become polluted. That which by touching a corpse had contracted defilement was not only unclean itself, but propagated uncleanness, and conveyed it to everything with which it came in contact. So was it with the Jewish nation in the sight of God, as represented by the returned captives. They might argue indeed that they had rebuilt the altar of Jehovah on their first return. But that good act, if it stood alone, even had there been no subsequent disobedience to vitiate it, would only, like the holy flesh making holy the garment in which it was wrapped, have extended its influence a little way. The altar would have sanctified the gift which was offered upon it. On the other hand the sin of the people in neglecting to rebuild the temple, like the touch of the corpse, not only contaminated themselves, but brought moral pollution and consequent blight and disaster upon all the works of their hands.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,11. Ask now the priests concerning the law] Lit., ask of the priests law, or the law. The construction is a double accusative after the verb ask. (Comp. Isaiah 45:11.) The word law may be used here and in Malachi 2:7, without the article, in the sense of “instruction,” or “direction.” Such “law” or instruction would, however, always be derived from “the law” of God by Moses, of which the priests were the authorised interpreters. Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:8-13; Deuteronomy 33:10.
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. If one bear] Lit. Lo! one bears. “See, there is a man bearing—what will happen?” An emphatic Oriental way of saying, “suppose, put the case, that one bears.” So in Jeremiah 3:1 we have, “Lo! a man puts away his wife.” And in 2 Chronicles 7:13, where “if” occurs three times in A. V. the Hebrew has “lo” the first and second time, and “if” the third time.
holy flesh] i.e. flesh which has been offered in sacrifice to God. Comp. Jeremiah 11:15.
the skirt] Lit. the wing. So πτέρυξ, πτερύγιον are used for the skirts or flaps of a cloak or dress.
meat] i.e. food, or eatables. LXX. βρῶμα.
the priests answered and said, No] In Leviticus 6:27 we read of the sin-offering, “Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy.” The garment therefore in which the flesh was carried would be holy, but the holiness would not extend, so the priests ruled it, to anything which the garment touched.
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 by a dead body] Lit. unclean by a person. The full phrase, “a dead person, or body,” occurs Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6; but the word “dead” is often left to be understood as here and Leviticus 21:1; Leviticus 22:4. The law of ceremonial uncleanness as attaching to death (under which there lay, no doubt, the moral idea that death polluted because it was the offspring and the wages of sin) is found in Numbers 19:11-22.
shall it be unclean?] as clearly laid down in Numbers 19:22. Compare, for the moral counterpart, James 2:10, where Dean Plumptre observes: “This seems at first of the nature of an ethical paradox, but practically it states a deep moral truth. If we wilfully transgress one commandment we shew that in principle we sit loose to all. It is but accident, or fear, or the absence of temptation, that prevents our transgressing them also. Actual transgression in one case involves potential transgression in all.” Camb. Bible for Schools, St James, p. 68.
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. This verse contains the application to the present case of the Jews of the principles brought out by the foregoing questions. The second principle, as to the transmission of uncleanness, is first applied in the former clauses of the verse, while the first principle, as to the non-transmission of holiness, is referred to in the last clause. “So,” resembling the case just described, “is this people and this nation, before Me, saith the Lord.” It is polluted in itself, like the man who is “unclean by a dead body,” through its disobedience, and neglect of my Temple. “And so,” defiled through this act of disobedience, just as whatever he touches is defiled by the touch of him who has had contact with the dead, “is every work of their hands.” The blight that rests on all their industry and labour, that mars and withers every work in which their hands are engaged, is the punishment and the proof of the moral uncleanness, which residing in themselves extends to all that they put their hand to. “And that which they offer there,” (on the altar which they have built to My Name in Jerusalem,) so far from sanctifying their works, as they vainly think, is itself through the pervading influence of their sin “unclean.” The sanctifying influence of the altar on which they pride themselves would at best but have reached a little way. The prevailing power of their disobedience vitiates all such sanctifying influence, and renders the very offerings on the altar itself unclean.
this people and so is this nation] See ch. Haggai 1:2. The addition of the word “nation,” the word commonly used for the heathen nations of the world, as distinguished from the Jews who were the “people” of God, has been thought to be a further sign of contempt and rejection. But the two words are used together of Israel in Zephaniah 2:9, where no such meaning can be intended.
there] On the altar built on their return from Babylon. Ezra 3:3.
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. The A.V. is a little obscure. The verse may be rendered more clearly thus:
And now consider, I pray yon, from this day (the 24th day of the ninth month, on which the prophet was speaking, ver. 10–18) and upward (that is backward), from (the time when) not yet stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord.
This is the other limit from which the reckoning is to be made, the time when the foundation of the temple had been laid, but no further progress in building had taken place, no “stone upon stone” had been added. It answers to the clause in ver. 18, “from the time when the temple of the Lord was founded.”
15–19. The great moral lesson of the Book is again inculcated. Let them fix their attention on the long period of their neglect of God and His House; the eighteen years that had intervened, between the laying of the foundation of the Temple and the 24th day of the ninth month of the second year of Darius, on which this prophecy was uttered. Let them lay to heart the fact that it had been throughout a period of distress and dearth, of gloom and darkness. Let them note the bright contrast, the plenty and prosperity, which their return to God and care for His House and worship should immediately introduce. “From this day will I bless you, saith the Lord.”
The period which they are to consider is first described in ver. 15–17, and then again, with a view to impress the lesson, in ver. 18, 19, the limits of time being now more clearly defined, and the promise of blessing introduced.
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] Lit. from their being. We may supply either “days” as in A.V. or “things,” since those things were, i.e. that reprehensible conduct of yours. The R. V. renders happily, through all that time.
when one came] Lit. to come, i.e. there was coming, or one came.
twenty measures] The word “measures” is not in the Hebrew. The LXX. supply seahs, (σάτα), the Vulg. bushels (modiorum). But the word is perhaps purposely omitted, because the prophet wishes to lay stress on the proportion. The heap, which when it was laid in the barn contained twenty measures (what measures they were it matters not for his present purpose), was found by the owner when he came to use it to have dwindled down to ten. The words as they stand are very forcible, “To come to a heap of twenty and there were ten.”
there were] The introduction of the verb “were” is perhaps intended to be emphatic: q. d. “the heap was expected to be twenty, it was (in real existence) ten.” And so again lower down in the same verse.
pressfat] i.e. the lower vat or reservoir into which the must squeezed out from the grapes in the press or upper vat flowed. “From the scanty notices contained in the Bible, we gather that the wine-presses of the Jews consisted of two receptacles or vats placed at different elevations, in the upper one of which the grapes were trodden, while the lower one received the ex-pressed juice. The two vats are mentioned together only in Joel 3:13 :—‘The press (gath) is full: the fats (yekebim) overflow’—the upper vat being full of fruit, the lower one overflowing with the must.… The two vats were usually dug or hewn out of the solid rock (Isaiah 5:2, margin; Matthew 21:33). Ancient wine-presses, so constructed, are still to be seen in Palestine, one of which is thus described by Robinson:—‘Advantage had been taken of a ledge of rock; on the upper side a shallow vat had been dug out, eight feet square and fifteen inches deep. Two feet lower down another smaller vat was excavated, four feet square by three feet deep. The grapes were trodden in the shallow upper vat, and the juice drawn off by a hole at the bottom (still remaining) into the lower vat.’ B. R. iii. 137, 603).” Dict. of Bible, Art Wine-press.
fifty vessels out of the press] Lit. fifty purah. The A.V. supplies the word “vessels” after “fifty,” just as it does “measures” after “twenty,” in the former part of the verse, and then taking the word “purah” to mean the press (as it does in Isaiah 63:3, the only other place in which it occurs), again supplies “out of” before it. This preserves the parallelism between the two parts of the verse. Perhaps, however, “purah” may here mean a liquid measure (LXX. μετρητής); possibly, as Keil suggests, “the measure which was generally obtained from one filling of the wine-press with grapes;” lit. “fifty wine-presses.” The earlier copies of R. V. print vessels in italics, and leave purah untranslated. The mistake however has now been corrected.
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] “Two diseases of the corn which Moses had foretold (Deuteronomy 28:22) as chastisements on disobedience, and God’s infliction of which Amos had spoken of in these selfsame words (Amos 4:9). Haggai adds the hail as destructive of the vines (Psalm 78:47).” Pusey.
labours] Rather, work. R. V.
yet ye turned not to me] Lit. yet not (no-such-thing-as) yourselves to me. The word “turning,” or a similar word, may be supplied from the parallel passage in Amos 4:9 : “yet there was no turning of yourselves to me.” The negation is a strong one, and denies any single instance of such turning.
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. from this day and upward] The Jews are again exhorted to fix their attention upon the period of time mentioned in ver. 15. It is first described as, from this day and upward, or backward. Then each limit of the period is more clearly defined. “This day” is “the four and twentieth day of the ninth month,” on which this prophecy was uttered, ver. 10. The “upward” or “backward” extends to the other limit from which the reckoning is to be made, viz. “the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid,” i.e. the day when the actual foundation was completed in the year after their return from Babylon. This is made clearer in R. V. by the substitution of, since the day, for even from the day. This period they are again called upon to “consider,” and to note well the dark cloud of adversity that brooded over it.
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. Is it any longer in the barn? Is it not all exhausted and used up? The meagre yield of the blighted corn was soon consumed and the granary left empty. Some have thought that by “the seed” is here meant what would be required to sow the land for another year, and that the dearth and distress are heightened by the fact that there is not even corn enough left to sow. But as the word is frequently used, not of seed corn, but of produce (e.g. 1 Samuel 8:15; Isaiah 23:3; Job 39:12), and as the remainder of the verse refers to produce, it is better taken in that sense here.
yea, as yet] There is no reason to depart from the usual meaning of the Hebrew word here rendered “as yet,” viz. “unto,” or “as regards,” “And unto or as regards (extending our notice from the corn to) the vine, etc. it (i.e. each one of these trees) hath not brought forth (fruit).” It would then best accord with the English idiom to leave the word untranslated, as in R. V. The rendering of A. V. is however thought by some to be supported by Job 1:18; 1 Samuel 14:19.
from this day will I bless you] It might be asked, why not from the day three months earlier than this (ch. Haggai 1:14-15), when they first resumed the building of the temple? It has been suggested in explanation that up to this time, though they had indeed begun again to build, they had been slack and remiss in their efforts, but that from this day, instigated by this fresh appeal of Haggai, they had taken a new departure of zeal and earnestness, and that consequently from this day the blessing was to begin. But there is no proof whatever that this was so, and it is therefore better to suppose that up to this day the effects of the failure of the last harvest were still apparent, and no outward change had yet taken place in their prospects. “He would then say, that even in these last months, since they had begun the work, there were as yet no signs for the better. There was yet no seed in the barn, the harvest having been blighted, and the fruit-trees stripped by the hail before the close of the sixth month, when they resumed the work. Yet though there were as yet no signs of change, no earnest that the promise should be fulfilled, God pledges His word, from this day I will bless you.” Pusey.
And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,20. again] the second time. R. V.
Ch. Haggai 2:20-23. The Fourth Prophecy
In a short, final prophecy, uttered on the same day as that which preceded it, Haggai addresses Zerubbabel as the Ruler and Representative of the Jewish nation, and the Predecessor and Type of the true King of the Jews. The former prediction (ver. 6, 7) of the shaking of heaven and earth, and the overthrow of mighty nations is repeated. But to Zerubbabel, and in him to the nation which he represented, a gracious promise of safety and distinction is vouchsafed.
Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;
And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.22. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, &c.] After repeating, in ver. 21, the prediction of ver. 6, “I will shake the heavens and the earth,” the prophet expands in this verse the prediction of ver. 7, “I will shake all nations.” This is made more clear in R. V. by keeping the same English word nations (heathen, A. V.) for the same Heb. word in this verse and verse 7. The terms here employed are too wide to be satisfied by any event in the life of Zerubbabel: “There was in Zerubbabel’s time no shaking of the heaven or of nations. Darius had indeed to put down an unusual number of rebellions in the first few years after his accession; but, although he magnified himself on occasion of their suppression, they were only so many distinct and unconcerted revolts, each under its own head. All were far away in the distant East. The Persian empire, spread ‘probably over 2,000,000 square miles, or more than half of modern Europe,’ was not threatened; no foreign enemy assailed it; one impostor only claimed the throne of Darius. This would, if successful, have been, like his own accession, a change of dynasty, affecting nothing externally. But neither were lasting, some were very trifling.” Pusey. The prophecy reaches forth to the more distant future, and still awaits its full accomplishment.
shall come down] i.e. be brought low. Comp. Isaiah 34:7.
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. will I take thee] In such expressions as this (comp. Deuteronomy 4:20; 2 Kings 14:21; 2 Kings 23:30) the word “take” simply introduces the following action. It has not therefore the sense which some have here given it, “I will take thee into my care and protection.”
as a signet] This promise is referred to by the writer of the Book Ecclesiasticus, in his panegyric of the “famous men” of his nation: “How shall we magnify Zorobabel? even he was as a signet on the right hand,” ch. Sir 49:11. Among the Orientals great honour and importance attached to signets or seals. They were often “engraved stones pierced through their length and hung by a string or chain from the arm or neck, or set in rings for the finger” (Song of Solomon 8:6; Jeremiah 22:24). “The custom prevalent among the Babylonians of carrying seals is mentioned by Herodotus i. 195 … and the signet ring is noticed as an ordinary part of a man’s equipment in the case of Judah (Genesis 38:18), who probably, like many modern Arabs, wore it suspended by a string (rendered ‘bracelets’ in E. V.) from his neck or arm.” Dict. of Bible, Art. Seal.
I have chosen thee] “With these words the Messianic promise made to David was transferred to Zerubbabel and his family among David’s descendants, and would be fulfilled in his person in just the same way as the promise given to David, that God would make him the highest among the kings of the earth (Psalm 89:27). The fulfilment culminates in Jesus Christ, the son of David, and descendant of Zerubbabel (Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27), in whom Zerubbabel was made the signetring of Jehovah. Jesus Christ has raised up the kingdom of His father David again, and of His kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:32-33). Even though it may appear oppressed and deeply humiliated for the time by the power of the kingdoms of the heathen, it will never be crushed and destroyed, but will break in pieces all these kingdoms, and destroy them, and will itself endure for ever (Daniel 2:44; Hebrews 12:28; 1 Corinthians 15:24).” Keil ad loc. Clark’s Theological Library.