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Bible Commentaries
Haggai 1

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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,

In the 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 Caesar 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.

In the sixth month - of the Hebrew year, not of Darius' reign (cf. Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 7:1; Zechariah 7:3; Zechariah 8:19). Two months later ("the eighth month," Zechariah 1:1), Zechariah began to prophesy, seconding Haggai.

Came the word of the Lord - Hebrew, Yahweh (H3068): 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 (cf. Acts 7:35; Galatians 3:19).

Zerubbabel - called also Sheshbazzar in Ezra 1:8; Ezra 5:14; Ezra 5:16, where the same work is attributed to Sheshbazzar that in Hag. 3:8 is attributed to Zerubbabel. Sheshbazzar 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 (cf. 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.

The son of 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.

Verse 2

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.

Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts - Yahweh, Lord of the powers of heaven and earth, and therefore requiring implicit obedience.

This people say - 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 70 predicted years of captivity (dating from the destruction of the temple, 588 BC, 2 Kings 25:9) were yet unexpired: this they make their plea for delay (Henderson). The 70 years of captivity were completed long ago, in the first year of Cyrus, 536 BC (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10), dating from 606 BC, Jehoiakim's captivity (2 Chronicles 36:6). The 70 years to the completion of the temple 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, the expense, and the danger arising 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 Hystaspes, 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.

Verse 3

Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 4

Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?

Is it time. It is not time (Haggai 1:2), ye say, to build Yahweh'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?

For 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, 1 Samuel 25:24; Zechariah 7:5.

To dwell in your cieled houses? - "cieled," rather, wainscoted or panelled, 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 feeling (2 Samuel 7:2, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains").

Verse 5

Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.

Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; 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.

Verse 6

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.

Ye have sown much, and bring in little. Nothing has prospered with you while neglecting 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; Proverbs 11:24). If men would seek God's kingdom as their first aim, they would secure additionally the secondary things of this life (Matthew 6:33). Instead of cheating God, they had been only cheating themselves.

Ye clothe you, but there is none warm - "there is 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 [ laabowsh (H3847), shaatow (H8354), 'aakowl (H398), haabee' (H935)], implying a continued state: 'Ye have sown, and have been bringing in but little; ye have been eating, but not been eating to the being satisfied; ye have been drinking, but not to the being filled; ye have been putting on clothes, but not to the being warmed.' 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 toward us, the key to which is found in the Bible (Moore).

And he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes - proverbial for labour and money spent profitlessly (Zechariah 8:10: cf. 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 dearness of necessaries, those who worked for a day's wages parted with them at once, as if they had put them into a bag with holes.

Verse 7

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

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" -

i.e., the neighbouring hills (Maurer).

And bring 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 foundation.

And build the house ... I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified - I will be propitious to suppliants in it, as Solomon prayed that I should be to suppliants praying in, or toward, the first temple (1 Kings 8:30); and so I shall receive the honour due to me which has been withheld. In neglecting the temple, which is the mirror of my presence, ye dishonour me (Calvin); in its being built, ye shall glorify me.

Verse 9

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.

Ye looked for much - literally, "looked," so as to turn your eyes to much. The Hebrew infinitive here expresses continued looking [ paanoh (H6437) 'el (H413)]. 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.

And when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it - even the little crop brought into your barns I dissipated. "I did blow upon" - i:e., I scattered and caused to perish with my mere breath, as scattered and blighted corn.

Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house - in emphatic antithesis.

Ye run - expressing the keenness of each one of them in pursuing their own selfish interests (cf. "run," Proverbs 1:16), contrasted with their apathy about God's house. The believer's desire, on the contrary, is to be enabled, by God's liberating, enlarging influence on his heart, to "run the way of God's commandments" (Psalms 119:32).

Verse 10

Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.

Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew - literally, stays itself. Thus, heaven, or the sky, is personified; implying that inanimate nature obeys Yahweh's will; and, shocked at His people's disobedience, withholds its goods from them (cf. Jeremiah 2:12-13).

Verse 11

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.

And I called for. What the "heaven" and "earth," the second causes, were said to do (Haggai 1:10), being the visible instruments, Yahweh, in this verse, the invisible First Cause, declares to be His doing. He "calls for" famine, etc., 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.

A drought - Hebrew, [ choreb (H2721)], like in sound to [ chaareeb (H2720)], 'waste' (Haggai 1:4; Haggai 1:9): said of A drought - Hebrew, [ choreb (H2721)], like in sound to [ chaareeb (H2720)], '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 "grain," etc., but also "men" and "cattle," who must perish in the absence of the "grain," etc., lost by the drought.

And upon all the labour of the hands - all the fruits of lands, gardens, and vineyards, obtained by labour of the hands (Deuteronomy 28:33; Psalms 78:46).

Verse 12

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.

Then Zerubbabel ... with all the remnant of the people - all those who had returned from the exile (Zechariah 8:6).

Obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him - according to all that Yahweh had enjoined him to speak. But as it is not until (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, the English version rightly represents their purpose of obedience as actual obedience in God's eyes already, though not carried into effect until Haggai 1:14.

Verse 13

Then spake Haggai the LORD's messenger in the LORD's message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.

Then spake Haggai the Lord's messenger - so the priests (Malachi 2:7) are called (cf. Galatians 4:14; 2 Peter 1:21).

In the Lord's message - i:e., invested with the Lord's authority and commission: on the Lord's embassage.

I am with you. So the Lord's promise of His continual presence with His Church is inseparably connected with her obedience, "Teaching them (all nations) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (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, because it includes all others. This is the sure guarantee of their success, how many soever their foes might be, (Romans 8:31, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"). 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).

Verse 14

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,

And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel ... and the spirit of Joshua ... and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. 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.

And they came and did work - collected the wood and stones and other materials (cf. Haggai 1:8) for the work. Not actually built or "laid the (secondary) foundations" of the temple, because this laying of the secondary foundations was not done until three months after-namely, the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (Haggai 2:18). (But see my remark there.) (Grotius.)

Verse 15

In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

In the four and twentieth day - 23 days after the first message of Haggai (Haggai 1:1), "in the first day of the month."


(1) In the inspiration of the men by whose 'hand' (margin, Haggai 1:1) Scripture hath come, God was the Speaker; the prophet by whom "the word of the Lord came" was but the instrument, though an intelligent, conscious instrument, not an inanimate unintelligent machine. The human medium of God's revelations was "the Lord's messenger in the Lord's message:" he was (Haggai 1:13) invested not only with the Lord's commission and authority in fulfilling the Lord's embassage, but also with the power of the Divine Spirit directing his spirit, so that, both in the subject-matter and in the mode of expression, his word was not merely his own word, but altogether "the word of the Lord" (2 Peter 1:21).

(2) How ready men are to find plausible pretexts to excuse their indolence and niggardliness about the work of the Lord! Where the will is lacking, there men are sure not to see their way to helping in the cause of the Lord. The Jews in Haggai's time did not say, We will not build the temple, but, "The time is not come" (Haggai 1:2). So, in the great work for which we were born into this world, multitudes procrastinate, putting off until tomorrow that which is the work of today. Their conscience will not let them say, We will never set about the business of eternity; but they put off conscience with the plea, There is time enough yet. So the great work is never done at all, because not done now in the accepted time, now in the only day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

(3) What a reproach to many professing Christians it is, that they are more careful about the comfort and luxurious adornment of their own "cieled houses" than about the rearing and completion of the spiritual temple of God-the Church of Christ. They can find "time" in abundance (Haggai 1:4) for "running" (Haggai 1:9) keenly after the gains, pleasures, comforts, or honours of the world; but they can find no time, and only the most stingy gifts, for devoting to the welfare of perishing souls at home and abroad.

(4) God is now solemnly appealing to us all, "Consider your ways." Men would be infinite gainers for time and eternity if they would set their heart (note, Haggai 1:5) in earnest to reflect both on God's ways toward them, and on their ways toward God. Do men really gain, or not, by seeking self at the sacrifice of God? Let the experience of the Jews in Haggai's time answer the question. With all their toils and cares, the "much" seed which they sowed brought in but "little" produce. Their meat, their drink, their clothes, did not fully satisfy them. Their hard-earned "wages" seemed as if they were "put into a bag with holes" (Haggai 1:6). They "looked for much, and, lo, it came to little." Why? Because "when they brought it home, the Lord blew upon it," so that it was scattered and blighted by the breath of the Lord's anger (Haggai 1:9). Men would understand God's dealings with them in His providence, and thereby learn what is His will concerning them, if they would consider His dealings in the light of Scripture, and with meditation and prayer. There can be no true prosperity where there is neglect of duty. The sin and the punishment are inseparably joined. The very evils which men think to escape by neglecting God's ordinances they actually bring on themselves by such unbelieving neglect. If we "labour" only or mainly "for the meat which perisheth," we often, like the Jews, miss even that, and, at best, can only have it for a very short time. But if we "labour for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life" (John 6:27), we "know that our labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58): and even in this life "the blessing of the Lord maketh rich" (Proverbs 10:22), and "no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psalms 84:11).

(5) The Jews were moved by the word of the Lord to "fear before the Lord," and to "obey the voice of the Lord their God" (Haggai 1:12). To realize personally and experimentally that God is our God, is sure to prompt us to reverent obedience.

(6) The blessed result of obedience immediately followed. At once the Lord passed from upbraidings to gracious assurances. As soon as the people had shown the sincere purpose of doing the Lord's will, even before they had actually begun the work, the Lord instantly said by His inspired "messenger," "I am with you, saith Yahweh." God's presence with us is the sure pledge of success in all our undertakings for His glory. And the moment that, with hearty submission and willing obedience, we have respect to all His will, He blots out all our past sins of unfaithfulness for His dear Son's sake, and tenderly welcomes us to His abiding presence.

(7) When God has a great work to do He finds the right men, and endues them with the right spirit for the due execution of the work. However sluggish and inactive men's "spirit" (Haggai 1:14) may be naturally in regard to the things of God, when God wills it, He can revive His work in the Church, and "stir up" its members to holy energy and devoted perseverance in all that is good. Then, like the Jews, each and all come forward, volunteering to "work in the house of the Lord," whom they now know as "their God" (Haggai 1:14). Let those of us who have fallen into spiritual torpor, but who are now awakened, endeavour to make up, so far as is possible, for past time that we have lost, by redoubled diligence for whatever time there may still be left to us. The longer we have loitered, the more let us henceforth redeem the time in self-devoting labours for the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Haggai 1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/haggai-1.html. 1871-8.
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