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Bible Commentaries
Haggai 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-23

Haggai 2:3 . Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? Is it not in your eyes as nothing? Josephus properly ascribes this to the poverty and weak state of the jews. The simile is a hyperbole, a figure common to all writers. Erasmus in Naufragium, describing a tempest at sea, asks his friend, Did you ever see the Alps? Being answered in the affirmative, he adds, Those mountains are mere molehills compared with the swells of the ocean.

Haggai 2:4-5 . Be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, for I am with you, according to the word I covenanted with you, when ye came out of Egypt. The rich blessings of the covenant, when they had short harvests, and the promised presence of Jehovah, were the two strongest arguments the prophet could use. But in the next words, blessings follow beyond all estimation.

Haggai 2:6 . Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. The apostle expounds these words of the removal of all idolatrous powers, to establish the kingdom of Christ, which cannot be shaken. Hebrews 12:27. This shaking of all nations was not effectuated by the feeble jews, Judea being then but a province of Persia, but by the Roman conquests. They conquered the world, and formed a great empire, from Persia in the east, to Britain in the north, Spain in the west, and Africa in the south. The character of their government was tolerant to all temples, and to all gods. Cicero calls them the most religious of all nations. In the Roman times, the holy scriptures were translated into Greek. Synagogues of the jews were established in all the great cities, and one fifth of the jewish nation were proselyted from the gentiles. Thus the vallies were exalted, and the mountains and hills brought low. Thus the way, in the fulness of time, as had been foretold, was prepared for the Messiah to appear in the flesh.

Add to these, that the temple of Janus was shut, a temple of commemoration of the peace which reigned in the days of Noah, as stated on Isaiah 41:1. Of those times Vola says,

O’ th’ green they played, In joyful mood, Nor knew at all The want of good. DR. HENDERSON.

Haggai 2:7 . And the Desire of all nations shall come. כל הגוים ובאו חמדות kol ha-gojim ubau chemdoth. The text of Montanus reads thus. When the holy prophets speak of the Messiah, it is with brevity, deference, and modesty. Of this the enemies of Christ watch to take advantage. The carnal jews were so grossly ignorant of Christ as to think that he would be a secular king, exalting them, and making millions of others slaves. Chemdoth, though plural, is used both of persons and of desirable things. Of persons, as of Saul, when the prophet said, “On whom is all the desire of Israel. Is it not on thee, and on thy father’s house?” 1 Samuel 9:20. Also of king Jehoshaphat. 2 Chronicles 21:2. Of Daniel, as a man greatly desired or beloved: Daniel 9:23. In the text, the note of admiration by which it is introduced, sufficiently indicates that it regards the Hope and the Desire of Israel. Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come. This coincides with Malachi 3:1. Jehovah, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple. He was the Desire of all the patriarchs, the Hope of Israel, and expectation of all the ends of the earth. Job in the land of Uz calls him his Redeemer; and Balaam foretold the Star that should rise out of Jacob.

The opinion of the more enlightened rabbins coincides with these illustrations. The paraphrase of rabbi Aquila, as cited in Poole’s Synopsis, is, “I will give the Israelites but a small kingdom, after the destruction of the first, [temple] and after that, I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the Messiah shall come.” To this we join the testimony of rabbi Jarchi, who says, that the jews understood this passage of the Messiah. The Chaldaic targum on Jeremiah 31:6, as in Dr. Lightfoot, reads, “The watchman upon mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.” This targum restricts the joy to those who desire the Consolation of Israel. And without a doubt St. Paul so understood it in those words, when speaking of Christ, The Hope the blessed hope the hope of the promise to the twelve tribes. 1 Timothy 2:13; 1 Timothy 2:13. Acts 28:20. This Chemdoth, Desire, or Consolation, was Israel’s only hope, and so strong, that in sacred things they swore by it. See examples in Lightfoot, on Luke 2:25. This same Dr. Lightfoot, to whom foreign divines pay the greatest deference, repeatedly in his works calls the Messiah the Desire of all nations. We cannot part with Christ in this text for unitarian vessels of gold and silver.

Why then does archbishop Newcome in an extended note, employ all his Hebrew acumen in researches for the small number of texts where the word chemdoth is applied to desirable things, as vases of gold and silver. Is not this an utter degradation of the prophets, as though they were ministers of mammon? Why are the bishops, Reynolds, Pearson, Taylor, Bull, and Horsley excluded from his illustrations? The learned Dr. Grabe of Holland has reprinted Bull’s defence of the Nicene fathers, with short notes. I know of no book like that which can save the clergy from destruction. How mortifying it is to read the following sentence. “He will shake or stir up all nations, that those nations may bring their desirable things; that the house shall be filled with God’s glory, and that the silver and the gold they bring by way of gifts are the Lord’s.”

But why play on the tense or the number of the verb בוא bo, “to come,” that no manuscript supports the reading in the English text. Jerome, in the fifth century, when nothing but manuscripts existed, reads nearly as the English. Et veniet desideratus cunctis gentibus. “And the desired One of all nations shall come.” Jerome’s reading is supported by the rabbins. All Hebrew grammarians admit the frequent interchange of the future and the present tense. A certain author himself admits it in a comment on Nehemiah 4:5. “Turn their reproach; their reproach shall be turned. Give them for a prey; they shall be given for a prey. Cover not their iniquity; their iniquity shall not be covered.” The prophets when speaking of Christ mostly prefer the present tense, as in Psalms 40:7. “Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me.” The old testament is full of Christ. See more on Jeremiah 30:21; Jeremiah 31:22.

Haggai 2:9 . The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former. These were words of comfort to the aged men, who had wept at its diminutive structure, when compared with that of Solomon’s, whose glory they had seen. They saw its exterior was deficient in magnitude and splendour, and its interior had lost the book of the law, the autograph of Moses, the golden urn of manna, the almond rod that budded, the fire that fell from heaven, and the shekinah of Jehovah’s presence. Still farther to comfort them, the prophet adds, “I will fill this house with my glory,” as at the dedication of the first temple. Nay, more than eye hath seen, or ear heard. Jehovah whom you seek shall suddenly come to this temple, and fill it with the glory of the only-begotten of the Father; Messiah full of grace and truth. The great Architype shall there begin to build the living temple; shall adorn his saints with gifts and graces; shall send the law of the new covenant out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall publish peace to the heathen, and usher in the superior glory of the latter day. He shall change the ceremonial waters into delicious wine.

Haggai 2:12-13 . If one bear holy flesh, being some joint of a sin-offering, in the skirt of his garment, and shall touch bread, &c.; shall all the food so touched be holy? The priests answered, no; for the blood of atonement was an oblation to the Lord. The altar sanctified the gift and the blood sanctified all it touched, as in Leviticus 6:27. Yet it did not authorize the person to communicate sanctity. The prophet then asked, if one unclean by touching the dead shall touch any food, shall it be unclean? The priests said, it shall be unclean. Haggai having thus procured a text from the priests, had gained a grand point; they could not now take exceptions to the severity of his addresses. He therefore pronounced the nation unclean by their habits of sin; he declared that all their worship, and all their lives, had one character of impurity, defiling all their heart, and all their soul. From these two questions we may gather one conclusion, that legal defilement was much more easy to communicate than legal purity.

Haggai 2:16 . Since those days, that you robbed the altar, and starved the priests for want of bread, when you came to thresh your corn, expecting twenty measures, the usual produce of an acre, you found but ten. Heaven, in dealing with a degenerate people, observes the old law, lex talionis, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. From the beginning of the world men have been saved by faith. How can a man dwell with God, who cannot trust a God!


Haggai foretels that the glory of the second temple, which was built after the captivity, should be much greater than that of the first which Solomon had built, and which had been burnt by the Chaldeans. Here it must be observed that the temple of Solomon was much richer, and more magnificent than that built in the time of Haggai; but that nevertheless the glory of the second would be much greater because the Messiah was to enter into it. This prophecy, the truth and accomplishment of which can be shown no other way, plainly foretels that the Messiah should come whilst the second temple was standing; and as that temple no longer subsists, we must necessarily confess that the Messiah is come, and that this Messiah is Jesus Christ our Lord. This is one of the clearest and most express prophecies in all the old testament.

It must farther be remarked, that according to the predictions of Haggai, the Persian and Grecian monarchies, which opposed the jews, were destroyed, as that of the Babylonians had been; that the jews were supported in their own land; that Zerubbabel and his descendants subsisted in a glorious state for a very long time; and that at length our Lord was born of his posterity. Thus have the predictions of the prophets always been fulfilled, and the promises of God never failed of being put into execution.

We leave the company of Haggai full of regrets that we have not heard more of the gracious words that fell from his lips. His ministry was a word in season to the dormant jews; he was rich in argument, and forcible in words. He foresaw the Lord always before him, and being on his right hand, he was unmoved by the insolence of his unbelieving countrymen, such as the men who mocked the ministry of Malachi.

He was strong in faith; “the Desire of all nations shall come.” God cannot lie; he that shall come will come. Messiah must have a temple; Israel must have a sanctuary; and the gentile sheep a fold. Therefore be strong, oh Zerubbabel, and all ye people of the land; the Lord is with you. Hope and glory are before you. Oh that our hearts were but quickened to more lively apprehensions of divine things, by sermons so brilliant.

He reproves the people as lost in sin, and polluting all they touched, and all they did. And how can christians enter religious assemblies in their sins. How can they frequent theatres on the week nights, and attend the ordinances of the Lord’s house on the sabbath. How long shall this tradesman repeat his confessions on Sunday, and his drunkenness at the Monday’s market.

While the prophet addresses them in the terrific language of conscience, he bears in his hand the rod. He comes as the messenger of God with powers to shut and open heaven, to give and to deny the rain. On reformation of manners, on recommencing the work of the temple, he pledges his character on the promises of God, that from that very day the Lord would bless them with corn, and wine, and oil. Certainly we should regard short harvests as the restrictions of Jehovah’s hand. In 1795, the severity of the winter injured the wheat; in 1799, the rains commenced in June, and continued for twelve weeks; in 1800, the crops were deficient, and wheat continued at eighteen shillings per bushel.

Haggai’s address to his unbelieving countrymen, rousing them from their sloth and indolence, in having so long neglected the building of the Lord’s house, under pretense that the time was not fully come, is well adapted for our admonition; for there is still the same disposition to defer any important undertaking, on the plea of some present difficulty, or the hope of a more favourable opportunity. It is owing to this that so little is done or attempted to be done for God, that so few efforts are made for introducing the gospel into dark places within our reach, and that numbers of immortal souls are left to perish in ignorance and unbelief. The same plea furnishes others with an excuse for neglecting and putting off to some future time the great concerns of their own souls, thinking that when some intricate affairs are settled, or some favourite point gained, then they will turn their attention more seriously to the things which belong to their peace. Thus they presume to venture a little longer, and a little longer, till all is over with them, and a dying hour comes upon them unawares.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Haggai 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/haggai-2.html. 1835.
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