In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying,
In these verses we have the third of the earnest addresses delivered by the devoted seer to these temple builders. In the first (Haggai 1:3-11) he reproved them for their neglect and stimulated them to the performance of their duty. In the second (Haggai 1:13), in few words, a single pregnant sentence, indeed, he assured them of God's presence with them now that they had repented of their negligence and were prepared to consecrate themselves to the important enterprise. In this third address (vers. 1-9) he expatiated upon the glory of the second temple. The people had again, become discouraged and depressed, despondent and downcast, and he sought to impel them to fresh endeavour by indicating the brightness and blessedness of the coming times. Consider -
I. THE CAUSES OF THEIR DESPONDENCY. This despondency very soon again took possession of them. They had been less than a month engaged in earnest endeavour to carry on the great work when they gave way once more. It was "on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month" that, stirred up by the word of God through the prophet, they devoted themselves afresh to the service of rearing the sanctuary for the Lord, and now on the twenty-first day of the seventh month their hands tired and their hearts grew faint. Why?
1. The failure of their harvests. This was brought conspicuously before them by the fact that "the Feast of Tabernacles" was now going on. This festival stood out amongst the Jews as "the feast," and is described by Jewish writers as "the holiest and greatest feast" of the nation. It served a double purpose, for whilst it commemorated the goodness of God as manifested to the fathers during their desert wanderings, it also commemorated his goodness in the harvest just gathered in, and was therefore not only called "the Feast of Tabernacles," but likewise "the Feast of Ingathering." In prosperous times, during its celebration, the holy city wore quite a holiday aspect. It became converted into a vast camp for all the people, and, with a view to make more vivid to them the tent life of their ancestors in the wilderness, they dwelt for the time being in booths, which they constructed of boughs of olive and palm, pine and myrtle; all the courses of the priests were employed in the religious exercises, bullocks were offered in sacrifice, the Law was read, the trumpets were sounded daily, and each who took part in the commemoration bore in the left hand a branch of citron, and in the right a palm branch entwined with willows and myrtle. When we remember how that on this occasion, in celebrating this feast, they would have, of necessity, to dispense with many of the usual accompaniments, and also that the blight had been upon their crops, and hence the ingathering had been only scanty (Haggai 1:6), we need not be surprised at the depression from which they were suffering.
2. There was, however, another cause of their despondency, viz. the unfavourable contrast presented as they compared the structure they were rearing with the first temple. (Ver. 3.) There were old men among these returned exiles who had seen the temple of Solomon, and who, when the foundations of this second temple were laid, conscious that the new structure would be very inferior in character to the former building, gave way to demonstrations of grief (Ezra 3:11-13). And it would seem that, as the work of reconstruction proceeded, these hoary-headed men continued to revert to the glories of the past, and instituted so many unfavourable comparisons between that age and the times as they were now, that the builders grew weary and faint hearted in their work.
II. THE CONSIDERATION URGED BY THE PROPHET SO AS TO STRENGTHEN THEIR HEARTS AND TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO RENEWED CONSECRATION. Haggai was aged, yet, unlike his contemporaries, instead of dwelling despondingly upon the past, he looked on hopefully to the future. With prophetic insight he saw the golden age as lying, not in the days of yore, but in the coming time. His thoughts were centred upon Divine blessings to be bestowed richly and bountifully upon the true and faithful, and he sought to animate the drooping faith and hope of the workers by directing their minds to these. He reminded them of:
1. The abiding presence with them of the Lord of hosts, in fulfilment of the covenant made with their fathers (ver. 5).
2. The national upheavings which should take place, and which should be overruled to their good (vers. 6, 7).
3. The halo of glory which should eventually rest upon the shrine they were rearing (vers. 7, 9).
4. The Divine proprietorship of all material resources (ver. 8).
5. The deep and durable tranquillity which should be experienced as the result of the development of the Divine purposes (ver. 9). The sense of despondency is experienced still by those engaged in holy service, and the way to get roused out of this is by anticipating the brighter days that are in store, when rectitude shall mark every character, and truth be on every tongue; when holy virtue shall adorn every life; when the heavenly fruits of "love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance," shall everywhere abound, and the Lord of hosts shall have a home and dwelling place in every heart. - S.D.H.
Parallel VersesKJV: In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying,