Haggai 1
Pulpit Commentary
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,
Verse 1. - In the second year of Darius the king. This is Darius Hystaspes, who reigned over Persia from B.C. 521 to B.C. 486. He is called in the inscriptions Daryavush, which name means "Holder," or "Supporter." Herodotus (6:98) explains it as "Coercer" (ἑρξείης). Hitherto the prophets have dated the time of the exercise of their office from the reigns of the legitimate Hebrew monarchs; it shows a new slate of things when they place at the head of their oracles the name of a foreign and a heathen patenlate. The Jews had, indeed, now no king of their own, "the tabernacle of David had fallen" (Amos 9:11), and they were living on sufferance under an alien power. They had returned from exile by permission of Cyrus in the first year of his occupancy of the throne of Babylon sixteen years before this time, and had commenced to build the temple soon after; but the opposition of neighbours, contradictory orders from the Persian court, and their own lukewarmness had contributed to hinder the work, and it soon wholly ceased, and remained suspended to the moment when Haggai, as the seventy years of desolation drew to an end, was commissioned to arouse them from their apathy, and to urge them to use the opportunity which was afforded by the accession of the new monarch and the withdrawal of the vexatious interdict that had checked their operations in the previous reign (see Introduction, § 1; and comp. Ezra 4:24). The sixth month, according to the sacred Hebrew calendar, which reckoned from Nisan to Nisan. This would be Elul, answering to parts of our August and September. In the first day. This was the regular festival of the new moon (Numbers 10:10; Isaiah 1:13), and a fitting time to urge the building of the temple, without which it could not be duly celebrated. By; literally, by the hand (as in ver. 3), the instrument whom God used (Exodus 9:35; Jeremiah 37:2; Hosea 12:11; Acts 7:35) Haggai the prophet (see the Introduction). Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel; Septuagint, Αἰπὸν πρὸς Ζοροβάβελ τὸν τοῦ Σαλαθιὴλ, "Speak to Zorobabel the son of Salathiel." The temporal head of the nation, the representative of the royal house of David, and therefore with the high priest jointly responsible, for the present state of affairs, and having power and authority to amend it. The name, as explained, and rightly, by St. Jerome, means, "Born in Babylon," and intimates the truth concerning his origin. He is called Sheshbazzar in Ezra 1:8; Ezra 5:14, which is either his name at the Persian court, or is an erroneous transliteration for a synonymous word (see Kuabenbauer, in loc.). The name is found in the cuneiform inscription, as Zir-Babilu. Shealtiel (or Salathiel) means, "Asked of God." There is a difficulty about Zerubbabel's parentage. Here and frequently in this book, and in Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as in Matthew 1:12 and Luke 3:27, he is called "son of Shealtiel;" in 1 Chronicles 3:19 he is said to be the son of Pedaiah the brother of Salathiel. The truth probably is that he was by birth the son of Pedaiah, but by adoption or the law of the levirate, the son of Salathiel. He was regarded as the grandson of Jehoiachin, or Jeconiah. Governor (pechah). A foreign word, used in 1 Kings 10:15, in Isaiah (Isaiah 36:9) and frequently in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, to denote an inferior satrap or subordinate governor. Strassmaier (ap. Knabenbauer) notes that in Assyrian the word is found in the form pachu, that pichatu means "a province," pachat, "a district." It seems natural, though probably erroneous, to connect it with the Turkish pashah. But see the discussion on the word in Pusey, 'Daniel the Prophet,' p. 566, etc. Instead of "Governor of Judah," the LXX. here and ver. 12 and Haggai 2:2 reads, "of the tribe of Judah." One of the house of David has the government, but the foreign title applied to him shows that he holds authority only as the deputy of an alien power. Judah was henceforward applied to the whole country. The prophecy in Genesis 49:10 still held good. Joshua. The highest spiritual officer (Ezra 3:2, 8; Ezra 4:3). This Joshua, Jehoshua, Jeshua, as he is variously called, was a son of Josedech who, in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, had been carried captive to Babylon (1 Chronicles 6:15), and grandson of that Seraiah who, with other princes of Judah, was slain at Riblah by the Babyloniaes (2 Kings 25:18, etc.). The parentage of Zerubbabel and Joshua is specially mentioned to show that the former was of the house of David and the latter of the family of Aaron, and that even in its depressed condition Israel retained its rightful constitution (see note on Zechariah 3:1).
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built.
Verse 2. - The Lord of hosts. Haggai, as the other prophets, always uses this formula in enunciating his messages (see note on Amos 9:5). Trochon justly remarks that this expression is not found in the earlier books of the Bible - the Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges. If these books were contemporary with the prophets, the phrase would certainly occur in them (see a valuable note in the Appendix to Archdeacon Perowne's Commentary on Haggai, in 'The Canibridge Bible for Schools'). This people; populus iste (Vulgate), with some contempt, as if they were no longer worthy to be called the Lord's people (Haggai 2:14). It looks as if they had often before been admonished to proceed with the work, and had this answer ready. The time is not come; literally, it is not time to come (comp. Genesis 2:5), which is explained by the new clause, the time that the Lord's house should be built. The versions shorten the sentence, rendering," the time for building the Lord's house has not come." The excuse for their inaction may have had various grounds. They may have said, reckoning from the final destruction of Jerusalem ( B.C. 586), that the seventy years' captivity was not complete; that there was still danger from the neighbouring population; that the Persians were adverse to the undertaking; that the unfruitful season rendered them unable to engage in such a great work; and that the very fact of these difficulties existing showed that God did not favour the design.
Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Verse 3. - Then came the word of the Lord, etc. The formula of ver. 1 is repeated to give more effect to the Lord's answer to the lame excuses for inaction. This emphasis by repetition is common throughout the book.
Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?
Verse 4. - For you, O ye; for you, yourselves; such as ye are (see Zechariah 7:5). He appeals to their consciences. You can make yourselves comfortable; you have time and means and industry to expend on your own private interests, and can you look with indifference on the house of God lying waste? Your cieled houses; your houses, and those cieled - wainscoted and roofed with costly woods (1 Kings 7:3, 7; Jeremiah 22:14), perhaps with the very cedar provided for the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 3:7). Septuagint, ἐν οἴκοις ὑμῶν κοιλοστάθμοις, "your vaulted houses," or, as St. Cyril explains, "houses whose doorposts were elaborately adorned with emblems and devices." They had naught of the feeling of David (2 Samuel 7:2), "I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains."
Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Verse 5. - Consider; literally, set your heart upon (so ver. 7; Haggai 2:15, 18). Your ways. What ye have done, what ye have suffered, your present projects, and the consequences thereof.
Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
Verse 6. - Their labours for years past had lacked the Divine blessing. Though they had fine houses to dwell in, they had been visited with scanty harvests and weak bodily health. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; but to bring in little (Hebrew). And this infinitive absolute is continued in the following clauses, giving remarkable force to the words, and expressing an habitual result. We see from Haggai 2:15-17 that these unfruitful seasons had visited them during all the continuance of their negligence (Deuteronomy 28:38). But ye have not enough. The food which they ate did not satisfy them; their bodies were sickly and derived no strength from the food which they took (Leviticus 26:26; Hosea 4:10) or from the wine which they drank (see note on Micah 6:14). But there is none warm. Perhaps the winters were unusually rigorous, or their infirm health made their usual clothing insufficient to maintain their bodily heat. To put it into a bag with holes. A proverbial saying. The money gained by the hired labourer vanished as if he had never had it, and left no trace of benefit. Comp. Plaut.,'Pseudol.' 1, 3, 150 -

"In pertusum ingerimus dicta dolium; operam ludimus."
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Verses 7-11. - § 2. The prophet urges the people to work zealously at the building; only thus could they hope for the removal of their present disasters. Verse 7. - (See note on ver. 5.) The repetition of the call to reflection is needed (comp. Philippians 3:1). Former experience opens the way to the injunction in ver. 8.
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
Verse 8. - Go up to the mountain. The hill country in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, whence by their own personal exertions they might procure material for the building. The temple mount is certainly not meant, as if they were to bring wood from it. Nor can Lebanon be intended, as in Ezra 3:7; for the injunction looks to an immediate actual result, and in their depressed circumstances they were scarcely likely to interest the Sidonians and Tyrians to provide cedar for them. There was abundance of wood close at hand, and the "kings forest" (Nehemiah 2:8) was in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem. There is no mention of stone, probably because the foundations had long been laid, and the ruins of the old temple supplied material for the new one; and, indeed, stone was to be had in abundance everywhere; or it may be that the prophet names merely one opening for their renewed activity, as a specimen of the work required from them. Not costly offerings were desired, but a willing mind. I will be glorified; I will glorify myself by showering blessings on the house and the people, so that the Hebrews themselves and their neighbours may own that I am among them (comp. Exodus 14:4; Leviticus 10:3; Isaiah 66:5).
Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.
Verse 9. - He shows the real cause of the calamities that had befallen them. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little. Emphatic infinitive, as in ver. 6. "To look for much, and behold! little." They fixed their expectations upon a rich harvest, and they reaped less than they had sown (Isaiah 5:10). And when they had stored this miserable crop in their barns, I did blow upon it; or, did blow it away (ἐξεφύσησα, Septuagint), dissipated it as if it were mere chaff, so that it perished. Doubtless, as Dr Pusey observes, they ascribed the meagreness of their crops to natural causes, and would not see the judicial nature of the infliction. The prophet brings the truth home to their conscience by the stern question, Why? And he answers the question for them, speaking with God's authority. Because of mine house that is waste. The reason already given in ver. 4, etc., is repeated and enforced. And (while) ye run. Ye are indifferent to the miserable condition of the house of God, while ye haste with all diligence to your own houses for business or pleasure, being entirely absorbed in worldly interests, or eager only to adorn and beautify your own habitations. Or, your zeal is all expended on your own private dwellings.
Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.
Verse 10. - Over you. This would be a reference to Deuteronomy 28:23. But the preposition is probably not local, but means rather, "on your account," i.e. on account of your sin, as Psalm 44:22. This is not tautological after the preceding "therefore," but more closely defines and explains the illative. Is stayed from dew; hath stayed itself from dew; withholds not only rain, but even dew (comp. Zechariah 8:12). On the importance of dew in the climate of Palestine, see note on Micah 5:7. The dews generally are remarkably heavy, and in the summer months take the place of rain. Dr. Thomson speaks of the dew rolling in the morning off his tent like rain ('Land and the Book,' p. 491). The earth is stayed from her fruit; hath stayed her fruit; according to the threat (Deuteronomy 11:17).
And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.
Verse 11. - I called for a drought. So Elisha says (2 Kings 8:1) that "the Lord hath called for a famine." There is a play of words in the Hebrew: as they had let the Lord's house lie" waste" (thatch) (vers. 4,9), so the Lord punished them with "drought" (choreb). The Septuagint and Syriac, pointing differently, translate this last word "sword," but this is not suitable for the context, which speaks of the sterility of the land only. The land, in contradistinction to the mountains, is the plain country. Nothing anywhere was spared. All the labour of the hands (Psalm 128:2, etc.). All that they had effected by long and wearisome toil in the cornfield, the vineyard, etc. (comp. Hosea 2:9; Joel 1:10).
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.
Verses 12-15, - § 3. The appeal meets with respect and attention, and for a time the people apply themselves diligently to the work. Verse 12. - All the remnant of the people (Haggai 2:2); i.e. the people who had returned from the Captivity, who are technically named "the remnant" is being only a small portion of all Israel (Isaiah 10:21, 22; Zechariah 8:6; Micah 2:12). Others, not so suitably, understand by the expression, all the people beside the chiefs (ver. 14). Obeyed; rather, listened unto. The active obedience is narrated in ver. 14. And the words. The prophet's words are the voice of the Lord; and the people heeded the message which the Lord had commissioned him to give. Did fear. They should that true religion which the Bible calls "the fear of the Lord." They saw their faults, perhaps dreaded some new chastisement, and hastened to obey the prophet's injunction (Ezra 5:1, 2).
Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.
Verse 13. - Then spake Haggai. God hastens to accept their repentance and to assure them of his protection. The Lord's messenger. Haggai alone of the prophets uses this title of himself, implying that he came with authority and bearing a message from the Lord (comp. Numbers 20:16, where the word "angel" is by some applied to Moses). Malachi's very name expresses that he was the Lord's messenger, and he uses the term of the priest (Malachi 2:7), and of John the Baptist, and of Messiah himself (Malachi 3:1). In the Lord's message (1 Kings 13:18). In the special message of consolation which he was commissioned to deliver. The Septuagint rendering, ἐν ἀγγέλοις Κυρίου, "anong the angels of the Lord," led some to fancy that Haggai was an angel in human farm, which opinion is refuted by Jerome, in loc. I am with you (Haggai 2:4). A brief message comprised in two words, "I with you," yet full of comfort, promising God's presence, protection, aid, and blessing (comp. Genesis 28:15; Genesis 39:2; Joshua 1:5; Jeremiah 1:8; Matthew 28:20).
And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,
Verse 14. - The Lord stirred up, etc. The Lord excited the courage, animated the zeal, of the chiefs of the nation, who had themselves succumbed to the prevailing indifference, and had suffered their ardour to be quenched (comp. 1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Chronicles 21.. 16; Ezra 1:1, 5). They came and did work. They went up to the temple and began to do the work which they had so long neglected.
In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
Verse 15. - In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month. The first admonition had been made on the first day of this month; the three intervening weeks had doubtless been spent in planning and preparing materials, and obtaining workmen from the neighbouring villages. The note of time is introduced to show how prompt was their obedience, and the exact time when "they came and did work in the house of the Lord" (ver. 14). Some, on insufficient grounds, consider this clause to be an interpolation from Haggai 2:10, 18, with a change of "ninth" to "sixth month." In the Latin Vulgate, in Tischendorf's Septuagint, and in many editions of the Hebrew Bible, the whole of this verse is wrongly annexed to the following chapter. St. Jerome arranges it as in the Authorized Version. It is possible that, as St. Cyril takes it, the words, in the second year of Darius the king, ought to begin ch. 2. The king's reign has been already notified in ver. 1, and it seems natural to affix the date at the commencement of the second address.

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