After the return from captivity, Haggai was sent to encourage the people to rebuild the temple, and to reprove their neglect. To encourage their undertaking, the people are assured that the glory of the second temple shall far exceed that of the first, by the appearing therein of Christ, the Desire of all nations.
Haggai reproves the Jews for neglecting the temple. (1-11) He promises God's assistance to them. (12-15)
Verses 1-11 Observe the sin of the Jews, after their return from captivity in Babylon. Those employed for God may be driven from their work by a storm, yet they must go back to it. They did not say that they would not build a temple, but, Not yet. Thus men do not say they will never repent and reform, and be religious, but, Not yet. And so the great business we were sent into the world to do, is not done. There is a proneness in us to think wrongly of discouragements in our duty, as if they were a discharge from our duty, when they are only for the trial of our courage and faith. They neglected the building of God's house, that they might have more time and money for worldly affairs. That the punishment might answer to the sin, the poverty they thought to prevent by not building the temple, God brought upon them for not building it. Many good works have been intended, but not done, because men supposed the proper time was not come. Thus believers let slip opportunities of usefulness, and sinners delay the concerns of their souls, till too late. If we labour only for the meat that perishes, as the Jews here, we are in danger of losing our labour; but we are sure it shall not be in vain in the Lord, if we labour for the meat which lasts to eternal life. If we would have the comfort and continuance of temporal enjoyments, we must have God as our Friend. See also ( Luke 12:33 ) . When God crosses our temporal affairs, and we meet with trouble and disappointment, we shall find the cause is, that the work we have to do for God and our own souls is left undone, and we seek our own things more than the things of Christ. How many, who plead that they cannot afford to give to pious or charitable designs, often lavish ten times as much in needless expenses on their houses and themselves! But those are strangers to their own interests, who are full of care to adorn and enrich their own houses, while God's temple in their hearts lies waste. It is the great concern of every one, to apply to the necessary duty of self-examination and communion with our own hearts concerning our spiritual state. Sin is what we must answer for; duty is what we must do. But many are quick-sighted to pry into other people's ways, who are careless of their own. If any duty has been neglected, that is no reason why it should still be so. Whatever God will take pleasure in when done, we ought to take pleasure in doing. Let those who have put off their return to God, return with all their heart, while there is time.
Verses 12-15 The people returned to God in the way of duty. In attending to God's ministers, we must have respect to him that sent them. The word of the Lord has success, when by his grace he stirs up our spirits to comply with it. It is in the day of Divine power we are made willing. When God has work to be done, he will either find or make men fit to do it. Every one helped, as his ability was; and this they did with a regard to the Lord as their God. Those who have lost time, need to redeem time; and the longer we have loitered in folly, the more haste we should make. God met them in a way of mercy. Those who work for him, have him with them; and if he be for us, who can be against us? This should stir us up to be diligent.
Haggai 1:1-15 . HAGGAI CALLS THE PEOPLE TO CONSIDER THEIR WAYS IN NEGLECTING TO BUILD GOD'S HOUSE: THE EVIL OF THIS NEGLECT TO THEMSELVES: THE HONOR TO GOD OF ATTENDING TO IT: THE PEOPLE'S PENITENT OBEDIENCE UNDER ZERUBBABEL FOLLOWED BY GOD'S GRACIOUS ASSURANCE.
1. second year of Darius--Hystaspes, the king of Medo-Persia, the second of the world empires, Babylon having been overthrown by the Persian Cyrus. The Jews having no king of their own, dated by the reign of the world kings to whom they were subject. Darius was a common name of the Persian kings, as Pharaoh of those of Egypt, and Cæsar of those of Rome. The name in the cuneiform inscriptions at Persepolis is written Daryawus, from the root Darh, "to preserve," the Conservator [LASSEN]. HERODOTUS [6.98] explains it Coercer. Often opposite attributes are assigned to the same god; in which light the Persians viewed their king. Ezra 4:24 harmonizes with Haggai in making this year the date of the resumption of the building.
sixth month--of the Hebrew year, not of Darius' reign (compare Zechariah 1:7 , Zechariah 7:1 Zechariah 7:3 , 8:19 ). Two months later ("the eighth month," Zechariah 1:1 ) Zechariah began to prophesy, seconding Haggai.
the Lord--Hebrew, JEHOVAH: God's covenant title, implying His unchangeableness, the guarantee of His faithfulness in keeping His promises to His people.
by Haggai--Hebrew, "in the hand of Haggai"; God being the real speaker, His prophet but the instrument (compare Acts 7:35 , Galatians 3:19 ).
Zerubbabel--called also Shesh-bazzar in Ezra 1:8 , Ezra 5:14 Ezra 5:16 , where the same work is attributed to Shesh-bazzar that in Ezra 3:8 is attributed to Zerubbabel. Shesh-bazzar is probably his Chaldean name; as Belteshazzar was that of Daniel. Zerubbabel, his Hebrew name, means "one born in Babylon."
son of Shealtiel--or Salathiel. But 1 Chronicles 3:17 1 Chronicles 3:19 makes Pedaiah his father. Probably he was adopted by his uncle Salathiel, or Shealtiel, at the death of his father (compare Matthew 1:12 , Luke 3:27 ).
governor of Judah--to which office Cyrus had appointed him. The Hebrew Pechah is akin to the original of the modern Turkish Pasha; one ruling a region of the Persian empire of less extent than that under a satrap.
Joshua--called Jeshua ( Ezra 2:2 ); so the son of Nun in Nehemiah 8:17 .
Josedech--or Jehozadak ( 1 Chronicles 6:15 ), one of those carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar. Haggai addresses the civil and the religious representatives of the people, so as to have them as his associates in giving God's commands; thus priest, prophet, and ruler jointly testify in God's name.
2. the Lord of hosts--Jehovah, Lord of the powers of heaven and earth, and therefore requiring implicit obedience.
This people--"This" sluggish and selfish "people." He does not say, My people, since they had neglected the service of God.
The time--the proper time for building the temple. Two out of the seventy predicted years of captivity (dating from the destruction of the temple, 558 B.C., 2 Kings 25:9 ) were yet unexpired; this they make their plea for delay [HENDERSON]. The seventy years of captivity were completed long ago in the first year of Cyrus, 536 B.C. ( Jeremiah 29:10 ); dating from 606 B.C., Jehoiakim's captivity ( 2 Chronicles 36:6 ). The seventy years to the completion of the temple ( Jeremiah 25:12 ) were completed this very year, the second of Darius [VATABLUS]. Ingenious in excuses, they pretended that the interruption in the work caused by their enemies proved it was not yet the proper time; whereas their real motive was selfish dislike of the trouble, expense, and danger from enemies. "God," say they, "hath interposed many difficulties to punish our rash haste" [CALVIN]. Smerdis' interdict was no longer in force, now that Darius the rightful king was on the throne; therefore they had no real excuse for not beginning at once to build. AUBERLEN denies that by "Artaxerxes" in Ezra 4:7-22 is meant Smerdis. Whether Smerdis or Artaxerxes Longimanus be meant, the interdict referred only to the rebuilding of the city, which the Persian kings feared might, if rebuilt, cause them trouble to subdue; not to the rebuilding of the temple. But the Jews were easily turned aside from the work. Spiritually, like the Jews, men do not say they will never be religious, but, It is not time yet. So the great work of life is left undone.
4. Is it time--It is not time ( Haggai 1:2 ), ye say, to build Jehovah's house; yet how is it that ye make it a fit time not only to build, but to "dwell" at ease in your own houses?
you, O ye--rather, for "you, you"; the repetition marking the shameful contrast between their concern for themselves, and their unconcern for God [MAURER]. Compare a similar repetition in 1 Samuel 25:24 , Zechariah 7:5 .
ceiled--rather, "wainscoted," or "paneled," referring to the walls as well as the ceilings; furnished not only with comfort but luxury, in sad contrast to God's house not merely unadorned, but the very walls not raised above the foundations. How different David's feelings ( 2 Samuel 7:2 )!
5. Consider your ways--literally, "Set your heart" on your ways. The plural implies, Consider both what ye have done (actively, Lamentations 3:40 ) and what ye have suffered (passively) [JEROME]. Ponder earnestly whether ye have gained by seeking self at the sacrifice of God.
6. Nothing has prospered with you while you neglected your duty to God. The punishment corresponds to the sin. They thought to escape poverty by not building, but keeping their money to themselves; God brought it on them for not building ( Proverbs 13:7 , 11:24 , Matthew 6:33 ). Instead of cheating God, they had been only cheating themselves.
ye clothe . . . but . . . none warm--through insufficiency of clothing; as ye are unable through poverty from failure of your crops to purchase sufficient clothing. The verbs are infinitive, implying a continued state: "Ye have sown, and been bringing in but little; ye have been eating, but not to being satisfied; ye have been drinking, but not to being filled; ye have been putting on clothes, but not to being warmed" [MOORE]. Careful consideration of God's dealings with us will indicate God's will regarding us. The events of life are the hieroglyphics in which God records His feelings towards us, the key to which is found in the Bible [MOORE].
wages . . . put . . . into a bag with holes--proverbial for labor and money spent profitlessly ( Zechariah 8:10 ; compare Isaiah 55:2 , Jeremiah 2:13 ). Contrast, spiritually, the "bags that wax not old, the treasure in heaven that faileth not" ( Luke 12:33 ). Through the high cost of necessaries, those who wrought for a day's wages parted with them at once, as if they had put them into a bag with holes.
8. Go up to the mountain--Moriah [ROSENMULLER]; Lebanon [HENDERSON]. Rather, generally, the mountains around, now covered with wood, the growth of the long period of the captivity. So Nehemiah 8:15 , "Go forth unto the mount," that is, the neighboring hills [MAURER].
wood--Haggai specifies this as being the first necessary; not to the exclusion of other materials. Stones also were doubtless needed. That the old walls were not standing, as the Hebrew interpreters quoted by JEROME state, or the new walls partly built, appears from Haggai 2:18 , where express mention is made of laying the foundations.
I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified--I will be propitious to suppliants in it ( 1 Kings 8:30 ), and shall receive the honor due to Me which has been withheld. In neglecting the temple, which is the mirror of My presence, ye dishonor Me [CALVIN]; in its being built, ye shall glorify Me.
9. Ye looked for much--literally "looked" so as to turn your eyes "to much." The Hebrew infinitive here expresses continued looking. Ye hoped to have your store made "much" by neglecting the temple. The greater was your greediness, the more bitter your disappointment in being poorer than ever.
when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it--even the little crop brought into your barns I dissipated. "I did blow upon," that is, I scattered and caused to perish with My mere breath, as scattered and blighted corn.
mine house . . . his own house--in emphatic antithesis.
ye run--expressing the keenness of everyone of them in pursuing their own selfish interests. Compare "run," Psalms 119:32 , Proverbs 1:16 , contrasted with their apathy about God's house.
10. heaven . . . is stayed from dew--literally "stays itself." Thus heaven or the sky is personified; implying that inanimate nature obeys Jehovah's will; and, shocked at His people's disobedience, withholds its goods from them (compare Jeremiah 2:12 Jeremiah 2:13 ).
11. I called--what the "heaven" and "earth," the second causes, were said to do ( Haggai 1:10 ), being the visible instruments, Jehovah, in this verse, the invisible first cause, declares to be His doing. He "calls for" famine, &c., as instruments of His wrath ( 2 Kings 8:1 , Psalms 105:16 ). The contrast is striking between the prompt obedience of these material agencies, and the slothful disobedience of living men, His people.
drought--Hebrew, Choreb, like in sound to Chareeb, "waste" ( Haggai 1:4 Haggai 1:9 ), said of God's house; implying the correspondence between the sin and its punishment. Ye have let My house be waste, and I will send on all that is yours a wasting drought. This would affect not merely the "corn," &c., but also "men" and "cattle," who must perish in the absence of the "corn," &c., lost by the drought.
labour of the hands--all the fruits of lands, gardens, and vineyards, obtained by labor of the hands ( Deuteronomy 28:33 , Psalms 78:46 ).
12. remnant of the people--all those who have returned from the exile ( Zechariah 8:6 ).
as . . . God sent him--according to all that Jehovah had enjoined him to speak. But as it is not till Haggai 1:14 after Haggai's second message ( Haggai 1:13 ) that the people actually obeyed, MAURER translates here, "hearkened to the voice of the Lord," and instead of "as," "because the Lord had sent him." However, English Version rightly represents their purpose of obedience as obedience in God's eyes already, though not carried into effect till Haggai 1:14 .
13. the Lord's messenger--so the priests ( Malachi 2:7 ) are called (compare Galatians 4:14 , 2 Peter 1:21 ).
in the Lord's message--by the Lord's authority and commission: on the Lord's embassage.
I am with you--( Matthew 28:20 ). On the people showing the mere disposition to obey, even before they actually set to work, God passes at once from the reproving tone to that of tenderness. He hastens as it were to forget their former unfaithfulness, and to assure them, when obedient, that He both is and will be with them: Hebrew, "I with you!" God's presence is the best of blessings, for it includes all others. This is the sure guarantee of their success no matter how many their foes might be ( Romans 8:31 ). Nothing more inspirits men and rouses them from torpor, than, when relying on the promises of divine aid, they have a sure hope of a successful issue [CALVIN].
14. Lord stirred up the spirit of, &c.--God gave them alacrity and perseverance in the good work, though slothful in themselves. Every good impulse and revival of religion is the direct work of God by His Spirit.
came and did work--collected the wood and stones and other materials (compare Haggai 1:8 ) for the work. Not actually built or "laid the (secondary) foundations" of the temple, for this was not done till three months after, namely, the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month ( Haggai 2:18 ) [GROTIUS].
15. four and twentieth day--twenty-three days after the first message of Haggai ( Haggai 1:1 ).