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The Glory of the Second Temple
1In the seventh (month), and the twenty-first (day) of the month there was a 2word of Jehovah by the hand of Haggai the Prophet, saying: Speak, now, to Zerubbabel, son of Shaltiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, son of Jozadak, the 3high priest, and to the rest of the people, saying: Who among you is left1 that has seen this house in its former glory? And what are seeing it (to be) now? Is not such2 (a one) as it like nothing in your eyes? 4But come! be strong, Zerubbabel, saith Jehovah; and be strong Joshua, son of Jozadak, high priest; and be strong, all the people of the land, saith Jehovah; for I am with you, saith Jehovah of Hosts, 5With the word3 which I covenanted with you when you were coming out of Egypt; and my Spirit is abiding in your midst; fear not. 6For thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, Once more4—it is a little while—and I will be shaking the heavens and the earth, and the sea and the dry land. 7And I will shake5 all the Gentiles; and the treasures of all the Gentiles shall come; and I shall fill this house with glory, saith Jehovah of Hosts. 8The silver is mine and the gold is mine, saith Jehovah of Hosts. 9The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith Jehovah of Hosts; and in this house I will give peace, saith Jehovah of Hosts.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The rebukes and warnings and encouragements of the Prophet having thus exerted their due influence, it might seem as if no further message were needed. But a new danger soon threatened to retard the progress of the work, a manifestation of despondency on the part of some of the people. It was natural that those of them who had beheld the first Temple in its magnificent beauty, would feel somewhat dispirited at the sight of the new structure, so inferior in outward attractions, and awakening so many suggestions of national decline and calamity, and that their feelings of dejection would soon spread through a large part of the community. These symptoms, on their very first appearance, called forth the third address of the Prophet, which, however it may be interpreted in detail, must be admitted to be a noble product of the genuine prophetic spirit, and of the highest significance in that period of their history on which the people were now entering. We may consider it in three aspects according to its three leading ideas: (1) as adapted to encourage the people in their present dejection; (2) as suggesting those characteristics, religious and moral, of the new era, which would prove it superior to any former period of Israel’s history; (3) as predicting the glory of the universal Church of God, represented by the second Temple. How these ideas are contained in the address will appear in the course of the exposition.
Haggai 2:1-2. Comparing the date with the time in which the work began (Haggai 1:15), it will be seen that more than three weeks had elapsed, during which the enthusiasm of the less ardent of the builders would have begun to flag. To this change of feeling, a circumstance would contribute which was noticed by Cocceius, that the 21st day of the seventh month was the seventh and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, on which occasion, as it was the close of the ingathering, thanks were to be rendered for bountiful harvests. A certain degree of despondency would be excited by the recollection that the harvest of the present year had been so scanty (Haggai 2:9-11). Hence there was all the more urgent occasion for some word of comfort and cheer. We must remember that such a state of feeling would be quite unlike that posture maintained by the people, which had evoked the first discourse. Then their selfish indifference had to be met by reproach and warning; now their fainting courage must be sustained and their feeble faith revived by encouragement and promise.
Haggai 2:3. Who is he that is left among you?—Is it not such (a Temple) as this like nothing in your eyes? We have no evidence that the feeling of disappointment among the people was openly expressed, or that it was sufficient to prompt them to suspend their labors. All the greater and more considerate is seen to be Jehovah’s returning favor. He would have them not merely steadfast, but also cheerful and hopeful in their work. He first addresses those who must have suffered most keenly in reflecting upon the outward appearance of the present structure—those who had beheld the splendor of its predecessor. It was not quite seventy years since the destruction of the First Temple, and there must have been some of those still remaining, whose weeping voices had thrown such a gloom upon the ceremony of laying the foundation of the present House (Ezra 3:12-13), with whom the Kingdom of Israel was not a matter of tradition but of personal experience. If they could be comforted, much more likely was it that the younger and more susceptible portion would be encouraged and cheered. It is noteworthy that the contrast between the two temples is made by Jehovah as strong as possible. He seems to admit that their dejection was natural, and by sharing their feelings, so to speak, He gives a most winning and reassuring evidence of his condescension and sympathy. On the construction and proper rendering of the last clause, see Grammatical Note.
Haggai 2:4-5. But come! be strong Zerubbabel—fear not. The depressing tendency of the present circumstances was admitted; but this was no reason why the people should repine. In the first place, they might plead with perfect confidence the gracious promise which they had a little before so joyfully received (Haggai 1:13). And if God was indeed with them, not only would the possession of his favor and the enjoyment of his presence compensate for all past distresses, and be all-sufficient for the new and untried future, but his help, his working with them, would establish the work of their hands, and in his strength they would be strong. He declares to them besides, that, as the Covenant is still in force, they are as much the object of his care as when that Covenant was first ratified, and that in the power of his Spirit resident with and among them, they would continually enjoy his presence and support.
Such is the general sense of Haggai 2:4-5, and it is not materially affected whatever be the true construction of the latter verse, concerning which there has been much difference of opinion. The chief difficulty lies in the ambiguity of אֶת־הַרָּבָר. The solutions that have been proposed under the supposition that אֶת is the sign of the definite object will first come under review. Some, notably Ewald and Hengstenberg, suppose that the governing word (probably זִכְרוּ: remember), is understood at the beginning of the verse. (Remember) the word which I covenanted with you, when you came forth from Egypt and my spirit dwelt in the midst of you: fear not. Besides the obvious objection, that this construction does not readily suggest itself, it may be remarked that a reference to Exodus 20:20, which Hengstenberg regards as establishing his view, seems out of place, not only from the improbability in general of an allusion to a comparatively unimportant expression uttered so many ages before, but also from the utter want of analogy between the present circumstances of the people and the situation supposed to be compared with them here. Moreover (it is not too much to say), on that special occasion the Spirit of God was not resting upon the people, as their conduct immediately thereafter abundantly proves (Exodus 32:7-8). Finally, there would seem to be not merely a certain incongruity between such a reference and the whole drift of the discourse, but the allusion would absolutely weaken the latter in its well-sustained and lofty flight. Equally unsatisfactory upon exegetical, though preferable on grammatical grounds, is the opinion (of Aben Ezra, D. Kimchi, Œcolampadius, Rosenmüller) that אֶת־הַרָּבָר is the object of וַעְַשׂוּ, either repeated from ver 5 or with the last clause of that verse parenthetical: perform the word (covenant) which I concluded with you.… then will my spirit abide with you. As Hitzig remarks, they were not to fulfill the commands of the Law, but to build the Temple. Others again (Ruckert, Hitzig, Koehler, Keil, Henderson, and Pressel) take אֶת as the “sign of the definite nominative of the subject.” It is not to be denied that in spite of the elaborate attempt made by Maurer in his Commentary to throw doubt upon the existence of this construction, there are a few cases which seem to prove its occasional though rare occurrence. The methods, however, that have been suggested by its ablest supporters to account for it here, virtually make it the sign of the definite object—another form of the view last mentioned. It is supposed either that אֶת־הַדּֽבֽר is attracted into the case of אְשֶׁר, a usage unknown to the Hebrew language, a single example of which is wrongly claimed in Zechariah 8:17 (see Ewald, § 277 d), or that the Prophet had intended to write הֶעֱמַדְתִּי instead of צֹמִרֶת after רוּחִי making all that precedes the object of that verb: (I have established the word.… and my Spirit among you). Why he should have abandoned his original intention we are not told. If he had done so, he would probably have erased the שֶׁת as any other writer would do under like circumstances. More precarious still is the notion of De Wette, who regards את as = ipse, according to the meaning which Gesenius has attributed to that word as the primary one. He renders: this word, etc., referring to the last clause of Haggai 2:4 : I am with you. Maurer has been more successful in combating this theory with regard to אֶת, since he has shown clearly that it need never be taken as a distinctive or demonstrative pronoun. Luther, Calvin, Eichhorn, Maurer, Newcome, Noyes, Moore, and Fausset regard אֶת־הֵרָּבר as the “accusative of the norm or standard.” So our E. V.: according to the word, etc. It may be admitted that the accusative is sometimes used absolutely in Hebrew to express such a notion; but if it had been so employed here, it is hardly conceivable that the אֶת, which would have been certain to be misunderstood, and moreover, superfluous, would have been inserted. No example can be found of its occurrence in such a construction. We are therefore compelled to assume that אֶת is here a preposition: with, as Cocceius, Marckius, J. D. Michaelis, and Stier have also done. The first member of Haggai 2:5 would thus be an adjunct of the last clause of Haggai 2:4, and the second member parallel to it. Haggai 2:4-5 might then be thus paraphrased: “Be strong, my people, for henceforth I am with you. I come into your midst with the Covenant which I made with you, when first you became my people. I renew it with you now that you have returned to Me; I will support and aid you as I have ever done towards my faithful people; My spirit is resting upon you; behold in this my faithfulness proved and my promise of help fulfilled.” The only objection of any weight that can be brought against this view is that the repetition of “with” in a clause which is not appositive would create a certain degree of awkwardness in the sentence. This must be admitted; and yet it is probable that the matter has been regarded too much according to the standard of our Occidental analytical and flexible languages, and that the locution would be less offensive to the taste of an ancient Hebrew. Koehler makes the objection, which is repeated by Keil, that if the אֶת of Haggai 2:5 had been a preposition, we should have had in Haggai 2:4, for the sake of euphony, צִמְּכֶם instead of אִתְּכֶם. But in such cases as this it is merely the close recurrence of similar sounds that offends; the fact that the words are identical in meaning is quite without influence. It is therefore a sufficient answer to these objections to say that the obnoxious sound is repeated here, where, according to the construction held by these critics, the word את, representing it, is at best superfluous. In accordance with what has been said, the word which I covenanted with you, etc., must be understood as the promise of God’s continuing presence and favor, suspended upon the obedience of the people, which expressed his obligations with respect to the Covenant made at Sinai, whose validity was to be perpetual. That the words my Spirit refer to the sustaining and comforting influence of the Holy Spirit upon the people, and not to the gift of such special qualifications for the present work as were imparted to Bezaleel and his assistants, Exodus 31:1 (Osiander, Koehler), or to that of the spirit of prophecy (Targum, J. D). Michaelis, Newcome, Henderson), is plain if we consider, (1) that the exhortations are addressed to the whole people, and (2) that only through an immediate and widely spread influence could their incipient despondency be removed and exchanged for cheerful courage. Such inspiration received and operating, just as it might be sought and prized, would soon cause them to forget their fallen fortunes, in their efforts to speed the coming of the promised triumph.
They might expect even more than this. Not only would the loss of Israel’s ancient glory be more than made up to the little colony by the abiding presence and help of their Covenant God: the very structure on which they were then engaged, though unadorned by the gilded magnificence of the former Temple, would yet, in its purer and more spiritual worship, possess a glory all its own, to which its predecessor had never attained, and would thus prefigure that everlasting Temple, whose transcendent and ever-increasing glory would be displayed in the pilgrimage thither of worshippers from every nation, laden with their choicest offerings, and still more in the unrestrained and continuing presence of the indwelling Spirit. The verses which contain these promises are so closely connected that we must expound them as a whole.
Haggai 2:6-9. For thus saith Jehovah of Hosts.… I will give peace, saith Jehovah of Hosts. The phrase צוֹר אָחַת מְצַטֹ הִיא In Haggai 2:6 has always been the occasion of much dispute. Taking a survey of the different views, we find that the rendering: it is yet a little (while), of the Targum (צוֹר חַרָא זְצֵירָא הִיא) and the Vulgate (ad huc unum modicum est) has been adopted by Luther, Calvin, Grotius, and by later expositors, as Ruckert, Maurer, Hengstenberg, Ewald, Umbreit, and Moore, אַחַת being regarded by most of them as = the indefinite article, but by Hengstenberg as strictly a numeral adjective. Reference is made, in support of this view, to Exodus 17:4; Psalms 37:10; Hosea 1:4, and other passages, in all of which cases, however, מְצַט is either unaccompanied by an attributive or followed by מִזְצָר—an entirely different construction. Insuperable grammatical difficulties attend this view, whichever of its abovementioned, modifications be adopted, as may be seen from the grammatical note on this verse; and the laws of the language must be suffered to decide against it. This consideration has led the majority of modern expositors to regard the sentence as made up of two members: צוֹר אַחַת and מְצֵט הִיא. But among these again there is a disagreement as to the true force of אַחַת. The greater number (including most of the later Anglo-American expositors, after the E. V., Cocceius, Marckius, Koehler, Keil, and Pressel), follow the LXX. (ἔτι ἅπαξ), who, however, left מְצַט הִיא untranslated. They understand פַּצַם, which is often feminine, with אחת, and make the expression = once, as in Ezekiel 30:10; 2 Kings 6:10; Job 40:5; Joshua 5:2. They accordingly translate the sentence: once more—it is a little while, etc. Hitzig, Hofmann ( Weissagung und Erfüllung, 1:330), Delitzsch (Comm. zum Briefe an die Hebräer, Hebrews 12:26), understand צֵת instead of פַּצַם, and render: one period more—a brief one is it, etc. The Prophet is then supposed to have declared (1) “that the period between the present and the predicted great change of the world, will be but one period, i. e., one uniform epoch, and (2) that this epoch will be a brief one” (Delitzsch). But it cannot be shown without overworking the passage that this idea possesses any pertinency to the Prophet’s design; it seems strange in the connection. Its advocates also ignore the distinction between prophecy and history. It must therefore be decided that פַּצַם is the word to be supplied, which is distinguished from צֵת as occasion is from period, and that the proper rendering is: Once more—it is a little (while)—and, etc. The use of וְ to mark the consequent clause of the sentence after a statement of time is in accordance with Hebrew usage; see Green, § 287, 3. הִיא in the parenthetical clause is the copula (Green, § 258, 2) and not the predicate, as Koehler asserts. It is conformed in gender to אַחַת, which it represents. It is natural to assume that צוֹר preserves here its usual sense: yet, again, more. Koehler, however, takes it to mean: henceforth, in the future, and the whole sentence as announcing that from this time forward the world would be shaken once, and only once. This he does not rest upon linguistic grounds, referring, as he does, to 2 Samuel 19:36; 2 Chronicles 17:6, only to show that the meaning proposed is admissible. Now, without maintaining the untenable position (as we think it) of Keil, that צוֹר always retains its primary sense of repetition or return, it is yet undeniable that it invariably preserves such a force when connected with a temporal term or phrase, such as אהת has been shown to be in our passage. Koehler bases his opinion upon the notion that repetition cannot be implied here, because no such commotions of nature as are here predicted had ever occurred before this time, not even during the delivery of the Law at Sinai, which is usually supposed to be alluded to in the passage. In disproving this statement there is no necessity of referring to the sense of צוֹר as understood by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12:26-27) or even to the inference which he draws from the words “once more” of our Prophet; for there we have simply the authority of the LXX., which is quoted and applied after the custom of the New Testament writers. We may, however, cite the opinion of that inspired Writer, that it was the shaking of Sinai that the Prophet had in mind—an opinion evidently held without the least reference to the interpretation of צוֹר אַחַת, one, in fact, assumed by him as unquestioned. This any one will perceive on even the most superficial examination of the passage Hebrews 12:18-29. Koehler asserts that the shaking of Sinai cannot be alluded to here, because the commotions here foretold were to affect all nature, while the descriptions of the giving of the Law do not refer to any disturbance beyond the Sinaitic region. But such passages as Judges 5:4-5; Psalms 68:8-9; Habakkuk 3:6, represent all nature as having been then moved at the coming of God. If it should be urged that such poetical conceptions are largely figurative, it may be replied that the convulsions here alluded to are themselves largely figurative, as will be presently shown. The force of the Prophet’s allusion to the phenomena at Sinai we conceive to be this: He is now holding out to the faith of his desponding people the prospect of a new era, which was to be prefigured by their present Temple. The former dispensation, out of which they were soon to pass, and of which the former Temple was the symbol and crown, had been announced and prepared by the shaking of Sinai and the other wonders wrought in the realm of nature during the disciplinary experience of their fathers previous to their entrance into the Promised Land. This second, final dispensation was also to be ushered in by shakings and convulsions. These, in accordance with the more spiritual character of the new era, were to occur not so much in the physical as in the moral sphere, the former class, however, not to be excluded. In accordance with the wider enjoyment of the new economy, its portents, so far as they were to occur in the external world, would affect all nature, so far as they were to affect human thought and action, were to affect all nations. It remains to be seen how this universal shaking is effected. That the words: I will be shaking the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land, have chiefly a figurative application, becomes clear from a comparison with such passages as Psalms 60:2; Psalms 18:7-15; Isaiah 13:13; Isaiah 64:1-3, where God’s judgments are represented under images drawn from the phenomena of nature; also from others such as Isaiah 65:17 (comp Isaiah 66:22, and with this the words “once more” in our verse), in which, as the context shows, the blessed results upon humanity are compared to a new heaven and a new earth. We do not even need to go beyond our own book for illustration. In Haggai 2:21 we have expressions similar to those here employed, which must have largely a figurative significance, since the overthrow of the surrounding nations was all that the convulsions there predicted were to accomplish, as our exegesis of the passage will show. The various departments of nature are particularized so as to present a vivid picture of the universal commotions and of the consequent transformation of the world. The prediction has its literal fulfillment also, in so far as remarkable natural phenomena have a portentous significance, in the divine dealings with man,—a truth recognized both by the Scriptures and by profane writers. We must remember, however, that the representation is here of a very general nature. With these conclusions in view it will appear that Haggai 2:6-7 describe the working of God with its resulting marvelous change in the aspect of the world in general, and more especially in its influence upon mankind nationally and individually,6 preparing them for the universal reception of the blessings of the promised epoch. The allusion must therefore be to all movements in the history of humanity, either before or since the coming of Christ, which have disposed men to own Christ as their Lord and Saviour. And of these it is most natural to consider as more immediately intended, those various political convulsions which changed the aspect of the civilized world and adjusted the nations for the ready reception and rapid spread of the Gospel—the conquests of Alexander, and the wars of his successors, with their tendency to combine and equalize the nations involved, and to weaken the spirit of national exclusiveness, to promote mutual intercourse through the medium of a common language, in which at first the Old Testament and at last the New were given to the world; followed by the gradual but irresistible progress of Roman supremacy uniting the East and the West, and resulting, on the one hand, in the decline of paganism or national religion, and on the other, in the prevalence of a long and universal peace, so favorable to the spread of the religion of mankind.—Such was the immediate fulfillment of the prediction. But we are not warranted in stopping here. In accordance with the true interpretation of the second clause of Haggai 2:7 (to be given presently), we must regard the convulsions as coextensive with their influence. All nations were to contribute to the glory of the Church of Christ, and whatever exercise of the divine power in the external world or in the spiritual sphere, should dispose man to the service of Jehovah, must be included in that moving of the world which should lead to its transformation. Hence we need not restrict the fulfillment of the prediction to the political changes which prepared the way for the reception of Christianity, as has usually been done, but may behold it also in those subsequent events in the world’s history, political, social, or moral, which have subserved (and never more conspicuously than in our own day) the growth and glory of the Church of Christ. We may even admit the partial correctness of Calvin’s explanation, that the shaking denotes that marvelous supernatural and violent impulse by which God compels his people to betake themselves to the fold of Christ. The view of Hengstenberg and Keil, at all events, is beside the mark, who suppose that the shaking of the nations is intended to set forth the punitive judgments of God upon the heathen, as leading them to submit themselves to his rule. As a matter of fact, it was not, to any great extent, the judgments of God that led the heathen to accept the Gospel. When, therefore, Hengstenberg attempts to apply his theory to the preparation for Christ’s coming, he naturally fails. Appeal is made to Haggai 2:21-23, where a shaking of heaven and earth is predicted in connection with the overthrow of surrounding nations. But the passages are not parallel. Haggai 2:21-23 are not in the strict sense Messianic; our passage is. The subject there is the opposition between the heathen and God’s people; and no hint is given of the conversion of the former. The subject here is the honor to be put upon the Church of Christ (represented by the Second Temple) by its reception of worshippers from all nation’s. The notion of the punishment of the heathen is remote from the idea of the promise and irrelevant to the discourse as a whole.
The consequence of this divine influence upon mankind is next given: וּבָאוּ חֶמְרַּת כָל־הַגּוֹים. But what is meant by חֶמרַּת חַגּוֹיִם? The rendering of the E. V.: The desire of all nations, according to which the Messiah is referred to as the object that should satisfy the universal longings of men, has always been a favorite interpretation. The translation of the Vulgate was: “et venit desideratus cunctis gentibus,” and this was followed by the Reformers (except Calvin), by the older orthodox Commentators generally, and among English Expositors, last by Fausset. So confidently has their opinion been held, that Ribera suspected the later Jews of having corrupted the passage by changing a singular verb into the plural (וֹבָאוּ), with the design of throwing difficulties in the way of the true interpretation. It has been accepted so widely by the Christian Church through the influence of the various Versions that it is still everywhere daily heard in their hymns and prayers. It is natural, moreover, that many should have been unwilling to give up a prediction which seemed to embody such a great and inspiring truth. But such an interpretation cannot stand the test of correct criticism. In the first place, we must have regard to the aim of the discourse, the encouragement of the people in building the Temple, by assuring them that its glory would yet be great. This object would not have been subserved by foretelling the coming of a Person for whom all the Gentiles were longing. Such a promise would give no special comfort to the Jews. The only reason why the “nations”1 were referred to must have been that they themselves would contribute to the future glory. Secondly, it is impossible to see what connection the silver and the gold of Haggai 2:8 can have with the coming of the Messiah, though that verse is evidently introduced as confirmatory of this. But, finally, the view in question is untenable grammatically. בָּאוּ is plural, while its subject חֶמְרַּת is singular. That subject, therefore, cannot be a person. It is impossible to evade the force of this argument; and when we discover that such expedients have been adopted as to assume that Christ’s two Natures are referred to, the hopelessness of the attempt becomes evident. It has indeed been urged that when a plural noun depends upon and follows a singular, the verb may in Hebrew agree with the plural. This is true in certain cases, namely, when the predicate may naturally be referred to the governed word as containing the controlling idea of the sentence (comp. Green, § 277). This is of course not the case here. It is not the nations themselves who are represented as coming, but their חֶמְרָּת. More admissible grammatically is the modification proposed by Cocceius, who translates: I will shake all nations, that they may come to the desire of all nations.” But the first argument adduced against the preceding view is decisive also against this. It only remains that we take חֶמְרַּת as a collective,—which its originally abstract sense renders natural, and as the plural verb demands.7 The true sense of חמרת here may be readily deduced from the usage of its primitive חמר: to desire, to take delight in. The derivation means, first, the emotion of pleasure, and next, an object of desire or delight (1 Samuel 9:20; Daniel 11:37). We have now only to decide whether it relates to persons or to things. The former sense with the explanation: what is valuable or worthy among the heathen— i. e., the best of the Gentiles—has been adopted by Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cappellus, Rückert, Hitzig, Umbreit, and Fürst (in his Wörterbuch). But here, also, all connection with Haggai 2:8 fails us. The only meaning which satisfies all the conditions of the passage is: the desirable things of the nations; not: the things desired by the nations realized in the blessings of the Messiah’s reign, as Henderson holds,—an explanation which like those previously noticed should be discarded because of its want of connection with the context, and its irrelevancy to the discourse as a whole. We accordingly translate: the desirable or precious things, the treasures of the nations, as most of the later Commentators have done. So the LXX. appear to have understood it (ἥξει τὰ ἐκλεκτὰ πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν not ἥξονσι, not persons but things). Their explanation was adopted in the Itala and Vulgate, and by Kimchi, and was completely established by Calvin, the most judicious and penetrating of Commentators. Since the Reformation it has been held, among others by Drusius and Vitringa, by Rosenmüller, Maurer, Hengstenberg, Hofmann, Koehler, Keil, Ewald,8 and among English Expositors, by Adam Clarke, Newcome, Noyes, Moore, and Cowles. Hengstenberg, indeed, followed by Moore, assumes untenably that הֶמִרַּת properly means beauty, but both writers adopt the usual explanation in their exposition. From whatever stand-point we regard this interpretation, its correctness becomes apparent. Grammatically it is unassailable. If we revert to the occasion of the discourse, we find that it contains the very ground of encouragement which the desponding people required. They had no need to be disheartened because of the present condition of the Temple. The outward adornments which had rendered the former structure so attractive were indeed absent, but these would be more than surpassed in splendor by the precious gifts which all nations should yet bring, to make glorious Jehovah’s dwelling-place. If we regard the immediate context, the interpretation becomes self-evident. The display of the precious metals in the first Temple was mournfully remembered by the people in their poverty. But the silver and gold of the whole earth were God’s, much more glorious would be that Temple which should be adorned by the treasures of all nations which He should dispose to his worship and service.
We have next to inquire into the fulfillment of this remarkable prediction. And the question first suggests itself: is the promise to be fulfilled in a literal or in a figurative sense, or in both? The answer will throw additional light also upon the concluding words of Haggai 2:7 : I will fill this house with glory.9 Let us now see to what extent the Gentiles did bring of their treasures to the second Temple. The command of Darius Hystaspes, given soon after, that abundant supplies should be allowed the Jews to forward their labors, cannot properly come into consideration here, because it was not a consequence of any such shaking of the nations as that just predicted. The same remark applies to the presents of Artaxerxes Longimanus and his councillors through Ezra. We must look beyond the mighty political convulsions of the age of Alexander and his successors, in which, as we have seen, the shaking of the nations first actually began. And here, as Calvin has shown, and Hengstenberg more fully, the renewal of the second Temple by Herod must be excluded from consideration. Herod was a foreigner, it is true, but his labors were not prompted by reverence for Jehovah, but by worldly policy.10 But the case was different with the offerings of those proselytes who, in the decline of polytheism sought to satisfy their religious aspirations by paying their homage to the one true God in his Temple. These gifts, however, were little more than a pledge of the higher, more glorious fulfillment. Otherwise the prophecy would have remained unfulfilled. The Temple (in its true idea and divine purpose) must be merged into the Church of Christ, the offerings of whose worshippers must have that predominantly spiritual character which should mark the Messianic times. (1.) Because the prediction is given as a revelation from God. Its fulfillment is certain.11 A literal fulfillment has been shown to be untenable; we have therefore to seek a spiritual one. (2.) This promise is but one of a large class of similar predictions in the Old Testament whose spiritual realization is assured by the New. Comp. Isaiah 60:5; Isaiah 60:9-11; Micah 7:13; Zechariah 14:14, with Revelation 21:24-26. The harmony and connection of our passage with these is convincing. (3.) After the restoration the outward splendor of the Temple was never a matter of Divine cognizance. The rebukes of the prophets directed against the people were not due to any failure on their part to enhance its external glory. Indeed we have good reason to think that they were encouraged to make this of little account. It is at least certain that the spirit cherished by the Jews, which ultimately led to their rejection, and to the destruction of the Temple, was the sentiment that found expression in the reverence for the gold of the Temple, which called forth so scathing a denunciation from the lips of Jesus, and that, in his refusal to admire the grandeur of that structure, He was moved by something more than the mere prevision of its coming ruin, that He recognized in that terrible calamity the divinely just result of the loss of spiritual worship which universally prevailed. And if the failure to discern that the Temple was only the embodiment and symbol of spiritual truths marked the decline and fall of Judaism, it was necessary that the Church of God, the true Temple beneath the gold, and outward adornings, should without losing its identity, divest itself of external form, to invite and receive spiritual worshippers from all nations. Upon these grounds we claim the fitness and necessity of a spiritual fulfillment of this prediction. What the treasures are which all nations were to bring to the Church of God is not far to seek. All material offerings presented since the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, for the purpose of advancing its extension or inward growth, are of course included. But the offerings of the heart—the prayers and praises of the multitudes that throng more and more about the gates of Zion, as the nations are shaken more and more by forces of the Spirit’s moving, and their self-renouncing devotion of soul and life to her service,—mainly constitute the perpetual and progressive fulfillment of the prediction. And in the presence of God among his adoring people we have the idea embodied in the ancient Temple realized, and the crowning promises of this prophecy fulfilled: I will fill this House with glory.… In this place I will give peace. It is the presence of Jehovah that sheds glory upon the Church, his Temple and dwelling-place, that imparts inward peace and joy, and outward peace and prosperity [שָׁלוֹם] to its members in ever-increasing measure; but that Presence is vouchsafed to meet and reward the submission and service of his people, gathered from every nation under heaven.
There is another important point in connection with this subject which needs to be discussed. The fact that all these promises are applied directly to “this house,” and that, as the subject of such glorious predictions the second Temple is sharply contrasted with the first, proves that there must have been something connected with the former, as compared with the latter, constituting it a more fit representative of the Church of Christ. This feature of the discourse is worthy of a much fuller treatment than is here practicable. We only remark at present that the cardinal distinction must have consisted in the more spiritual character which life, and faith, and worship assumed in the best times of Judaism after the Restoration, the Temple being of course understood to represent then, as of old, the theocratic community of which it was the centre. Rites and ceremonies retired more into the background; and prayer began to assume its true place in public worship. The religious knowledge of the people was kept up through the regular public reading and distribution of the Scriptures, which were early collected into their present canonical form. Synagogues were established, the people having learnt at Babylon that God’s presence might be enjoyed in their assemblies in any place or circumstances. Thus there was kept alive throughout the nation a higher and purer type of religion than it had known in the days when the first Temple with its outward splendor and gorgeous ritual excited the admiration of the people, but too seldom led their thoughts to the contemplation of the truths it expressed and prefigured. These we regard as some of the characteristics of the second Temple, which on the one hand exalted it above its predecessor, and on the other assimilated it to the Church of Christ, of which it thus became the fit representative in the Divine promises. This was the true glory of the Second Temple.
The question finally suggests itself: If this exposition be correct, why were these promises veiled in such a material form? The same difficulty must be equally felt in the consideration of the similar passages in the Prophets already cited. It is not a sufficient answer to say that such is the uniform drapery in which prophetic promise is clothed. The answer which exhibits the inner fitness and necessity of the mode of communication, is that such a form was the only one suited to the conditions under which the promise was given. Its recipients would have been dissatisfied with the full and clear revelation as not meeting their immediate needs, and moreover could neither have grasped its meaning nor appreciated its worth. They were not as yet prepared to receive the doctrine of an invisible Temple and a universal Church, as the nations themselves were not prepared for the coming and reign of their common Redeemer. Hence it was best that the glories of his kingdom should be described in words suited to their apprehensions and requirements. He also, when He came, in his predictions as well as in his other instructions, taught as his hearers were able to bear them. And even we are under the same tutelage with respect to the mysteries of the New Jerusalem; for we read that it has its Temple too (Revelation 7:15), and yet we are told that it has no Temple (Revelation 21:22); and the announcement of the final and complete fulfillment of our prophecy (Revelation 21:24-26) is little more than a repetition of the prophecy itself in a material form identically the same.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The only hope of the Church of God lies in his favor. If at any time it is weak and languishing, its sad condition is directly due to the withdrawal of God’s presence. But his attitude towards his people is not the result of caprice or of change of purpose. He is bound to them by a Covenant (Haggai 2:5) to which He ever remains faithful. It is their unfaithfulness that banishes Him from among them, and a return to obedience that restores his favor and help. The latter result is as assured as the former (comp. Haggai 2:4-5, with Haggai 1:12-13). These truths furnish an antidote to despondency, and a ground of confidence as well as a motive to renewed consecration.
2. The World is the tributary, and the minister of the Church. All revolutions, political, social, or moral, that affect the nations, are harbingers and preparations of that spiritual and inward but no less powerful influence which is to impel them within the boundaries of the kingdom of Christ. And the treasures of the nations, all that is desirable and valuable in the achievements of human labor, all the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the ages, and all that is pure and lofty in human motives and purposes, are the offerings which the world has brought, or is yet to bring to the Church—“the glory and honor of the Gentiles” presented in the courts of Zion (Revelation 21:26).
3. The development and progress of the Church of God are not marked by an increase of external splendor. Its true glory does not consist in the magnificence of its houses of worship, or in the pomp and impressiveness of its ceremonies and rituals. The First Temple was distinguished by these outward attractions; but the Second Temple in which they were so inferior, is by the Prophet contrasted with the former, and chosen as the fit representative, nay even as the partial realization of the promised Church of Christ. Christians know, as the pious worshippers in the second Temple were taught, that the glory of the Church is derived from the purity of her worship, the devotion of her ever-increasing members, and the abiding presence of God through his Spirit. Even the Shekinah was wanting in the second Temple; but the faithful worshippers there, like those who now in every nation worship God in spirit and in truth, could rejoice that they did not need among them his visible glory, while his presence was felt in their hearts.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Haggai 2:3 (comp. with Haggai 2:9). Long life is a blessing and happiness to a servant of God, if at its close he is permitted to behold the revival of God’s kingdom and increasing signs of its coming glory.
Haggai 2:4-5. God’s people should dwell much upon their past history. They will thus find that whatever checks and distresses they have experienced were due to their own unfaithfulness, and that God never failed to fulfill his part in the Covenant, whether He chastened or blessed. In the adversities of the present they may be assured that their true hope lies in the presence and power of the Spirit, who dwells with them according as they fulfill their part in the Covenant.
Calvin: God is present with his own in various ways; but He especially shows that He is present when, by his Spirit, He confirms weak minds.
Haggai 2:6-7. In the midst of the changes, political, social, and moral, that affect the nations, by what methods may God’s people best seek to attract them with their priceless treasures within the Church of Christ?
Henry: The shaking of the nations is often in order to the settling of the Church and the establishing of the things that cannot be shaken.
Moore: The kingdoms of the world are but the scaffolding for God’s spiritual Temple, to be thrown down when their purpose is accomplished.—The uncertainty and transitoriness of all that is earthly should lead men to seek repose in the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.—The glory of the New Testament dispensation is the conversion of the heathen.
Haggai 2:8. Since the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s, his people need never fear either that they will be left destitute, or that the “riches of the Gentiles” will not be converted to the use of his Church.
Henry: Every penny bears God’s superscription as well as Cæsar’s.
Moore: The comparative poverty of the Church is not because God cannot bestow riches upon her, but because there are better blessings than wealth that are often incompatible with its possession.
Haggai 2:9. Calvin: Though they should gather the treasures of a thousand worlds into one mass, such a glory would still be perishable.
Moore: The New Testament in all its outward lowliness has a glory in its possession of a completed salvation, far above all the outward magnificence of the Mosaic dispensation.—The kingdom of Christ makes peace between God and man, and in its ultimate results will make peace between man and man, and destroy all that produces discord and confusion, war and bloodshed on the earth.
Pressel: Every house of God is a place where God gives peace, and every place of peace is also a house of God.
—On the whole discourse: The glory of God’s kingdom: (1.) Its conditions—the faithfulness of his people to all their covenant obligations and duties, their obedience, their faith, and their courage, securing his favor and help. (2.) Its nature—the constant reception of increasing multitudes of “Gentile” with their “treasures” of devotion and service; and the abiding presence of God’s Spirit diffusing peace and joy.
Haggai 2:3; Haggai 2:3.—הַנִּשְׁאָר. The article is employed here (=who is the one that is left) because the predicate is made definite by the description which follows (that has beheld this House, etc.); comp. Jeremiah 49:36, and see Green § 245, 2, Ewald, § 277 a.
Haggai 2:3; Haggai 2:3.—מָה (=qualem) agrees with אוֹתוֹ as the attributive of the object, Ewald, § 325 a, ad finem. This use of מָה (as suggesting the character of the object) seems to justify the explanation of כָּמֹהוּ כְאַֹיִן after the analogy of Joel 2:2 : Is not such (a one) as it as nothing in your eyes? See Ewald, § 105 b, 1. So Rückert, Maurer Hitzig, Moore. To this Koehler, and after him Keil, object that then it would not be the Temple, but something like it that is compared to nothing, which would be very tame. But every one knows that in expressions of this kind “such” refers to the subject of discourse with an allusion at the same time to its character. Here כָמֹהוּ (= a temple like this) would naturally refer back to מָה (= what sort of Temple?). Hence we prefer this view to the one more commonly entertained, and upheld by these critics, that we have here an inversion of the usual order of the particles of comparison: Is not as nothing so it?=Is it not as nothing; comp. Genesis 18:25; Genesis 44:18 (as Pharaoh so thou). The rendering adopted by Rosenmuller, Eichhorn, et al., as well as by E. V. and most English expositors, is indefensible.
Haggai 2:5; Haggai 2:5.—אֶת־הַוָּבָר. See the exegesis, which involves in this passage so much, grammatical discussion that We remit the latter to that section.
Haggai 2:6; Haggai 2:6.—The reasons decisive against the opinion that אַחַת is joined as a numeral adjective to מְעַט are (1) that the latter is never feminine, and (2) that in such a construction the numeral always follows the substantive. See the exegesis, where other grammatical difficulties connected with the passage are discussed.
Haggai 2:7; Haggai 2:7.—The perfects in this verse have the force of the future perfect and not of the prophetic perfect: I shall have shaken, etc. So in Haggai 2:22.
Nations are named here in accordance with the guarded and partial representation of the salvation of the Gentiles peculiar to the old Testament. But individuals are not therefore excluded; they are rather plainly and specially regarded; for the constraining force is ultimately not outward compulsion, but the influence of the Spirit upon the heart, as the discourse itself implies.
Even in Psalms 119:103 the subject is collective; in Jeremiah 11:14 it is distributive.
Ewald, who formerly (in his Comm.) maintained that the “choice (persons)” of the Gentiles were meant (see above), now seems to agree with this opinion. In his Sprachlehre (§ 317 b), he explains the word by Kostbarkeiten.
Compare for the idea of glory imparted by material treasures, Nahum 2:10 (9).
It has been said that Herod really erected a third Temple instead of repairing the second. But this mode of expression show a want of perception of the divine and prophetic idea of the institution. Herod’s Temple must still be regarded as the second, even through it be conceded that he erected a new structure. A new Temple must introduce a new era.
Some of the Jewish Commentators would not readily agree with this. Philippson (Israelitische Bibel ii. 1489), after showing that Herod’s Temple, was with all its splendor still inferior to Solomon’s and after admitting that Haggai 2:7, which he renders correctly, has not been literally fulfilled, remarks as follows: “The Prophets give promises for the future, not in order to predict, but in order to ameliorate the present and to incite to holy actions. Israelites have themselves made the fulfillment of these prophecies impossible by refusing to rise to those higher conditions in which alone, according to the declarations of the Prophets themselves, the promises would be fulfilled.” Comp. p. 922. This is the logical result of the Jewish theory; for though some of their Commentators (e. g., Isaaki, Abarbanel) interpret the passage as predicting a future Temple, comparing Ezekiel 43:0. etc., yet as this view is in plain contradiotion of the Prophet’s announcement of speedy fulfillment, others are, in consistency, driven to renounce the idea of any true fulfillment whatever.
Past Calamities accounted for; and Immediate Prosperity announced
10 On the twenty-fourth (day) of the ninth (month) in the second year of Darius, 11there was a word of Jehovah by the hand of Haggai the Prophet, saying: Thus 12saith Jehovah of Hosts: Ask, I pray you, the Priests12 for instruction, saying: If13 a man shall bear holy flesh in the lappet of his garment, and touch with his lappet upon bread, or upon pottage, or upon wine, or upon oil, or upon any food, shall it become holy; and. the Priests answered and said: No. 13And Haggai said: If one defiled14 through a (dead) person touch any of these, shall it be unclean; and the 14Priests answered and said: It shall be unclean. Then Haggai answered and said: So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith Jehovah, and so is every work of their hands; and whatever they offer there [at the altar] is unclean. 15And now, I pray you direct your heart from this day and backward, before the 16placing of stone upon stone in the house of Jehovah. Since such things were,15 one has been going16 to a heap of sheaves of fifty (measures), and there were (but) ten; he has been going to the wine-vat to draw out fifty pails, and there were (but) 17twenty. I have smitten you with blight, and with mildew, and with hail—all the works17 of your hands; yet ye (returned)18 not to me, saith Jehovah. 18Direct, I pray you, your hearts from this day and backward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth (month), to the day on which the Temple of Jehovah was founded; direct 19your heart. Is the grain yet in the barn? And as to the vine and the fig tree, and the pomegranate and olive tree, they have not borne.19 From this day I will bless.20
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The ministry of the Prophet had at last achieved its most important object, and with the access of new zeal and devotion to. God’s service among the people, a powerful impulse had been given to their national and religious life. Another message was now appropriate, and that for the accomplishment of two ends: first, that the people might be forewarned against a course of conduct, which would again alienate the favor of God; second, that they might be further secured against despondency by the prospect of rich and speedy blessings, as the consequence of their repentance and obedience.
Haggai 2:10. The message which follows was delivered about two months after the preceding, while the people were still feeling, probably, in an intensified degree, the pressure of the temporal distress which was described in the first discourse. It was an occasion peculiarly suitable for the communication of such a message. It was the ninth month (Chisleu, November–December) when the early rain was expected to water the newly-sown crops. Their fields had lately (Haggai 1:6) been giving a very scanty harvest, and there would naturally be much anxiety about the results of the labor of the present season; and great rejoicing at the receival of an assurance of its success.
Haggai 2:11. We agree with Ewald, Koehler, Keil, et al. in regarding תוֹרָה here as meaning not the law but instruction. If the former had been intended, the article would have been present. That the answer to the inquiry would be obtained from the law does not of course affect the question.
Haggai 2:12. If a man shall bear.… and the Priests answered: No. The priests answered correctly and according to a natural and divinely sanctioned inference from Leviticus 4:20 (27). In that passage the flesh of the animal sacrificed is said to render sacred any object (כֹּל אְַשֶׁר there probably refers both to persons and to things) with which it may come in contact, a garment sprinkled with its blood being particularized. It is not said that the character of legal sacredness is communicated indefinitely. The enumeration in our passage of the most common and necessary articles of food is in accordance with the lesson to be enforced; see on Haggai 2:14.
Haggai 2:13. And Haggai said.… he will be unclean. Comparing our verse with Leviticus 22:4, and that passage with Numbers 5:2; Numbers 9:6-7; Numbers 9:10, we find that the phrase טְמֵא לָנֶפֶשׁ טְמֵא נֶפֶשׁ. defiled with respect to a person. Comparing again with Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6, we find that מֵת is to be understood in the latter expression, which therefore means: unclean on account of a dead person. The ellipsis is seen to be natural, when we remember that defilement occasioned by personal contact usually proceeded from contact with a dead body, and that this species of defilement was one of the deepest (see Numbers 19:11-16). Keil translates: defiled on or through the soul of a dead man, a rendering whose correctness he fails to prove both here and in his exposition of Leviticus 19:28. Besides giving a contradictory explanation, he would refuse to recognize one of the most common meanings of נֶפֶשׁ, that of person transferred to the sense of body. The explanation of Koehler is worth quoting. He takes nephesh in its primary sense of breath, and thinks that one who comes in contact with the breath of a dead man is referred to. This he does not seek to establish on the lucus a non lucendo principle, as might be expected, but by the statement that “as long as the corpse is not completely consumed, even if the skeleton only is left, a remnant of the breath of life still remains seeking to extricate itself so as to leave the body to perish utterly.”—Then follows the application to the circumstances of the people of these principles of the Ceremonial Law. It will be noticed that the priests and the prophet act in accordance with their proper functions: the former declare or interpret the precepts of the Law; the latter applies them.
Haggai 2:14. And Haggai answered and said … is unclean. No distinction is intended to be expressed between “nation” and “people” here. The repetition is a hebraism; comp. Zephaniah 2:9. So is this people, etc. = So is it with this people. Before me means: in my presence as Ruler and Judge. The key to the correct application of the ceremonial precepts, which have occasioned difficulty to some interpreters, is found in the last clause of the verse, taking into account that שָׁם = at the altar (Ezra 3:3). The people, suffering from scarcity of food consequent upon the failure of their crops, had, it seems, been continuing in some measure their regular sacrificial offerings, though they had been neglecting the building of the Temple. These oblations had not been accepted, as they might have inferred from the with-holding of the divine blessing, the true cause of which is now impressively illustrated. As he who was ceremonially unclean tainted everything with which he came in contact, so had they, suffering from God’s displeasure on account of their disregard of his claims, communicated the effects of that displeasure to all the labor of their hands, which profited them nothing. And, as the consecrated flesh of the sacrifices did not convey its sacredness to any objects beyond those immediately in the service, so all their external good works, even their offerings upon God’s altar, could not reach in its effects beyond the mere ceremonial fulfillment of outward observances, could riot secure those blessings which are the reward of living, operative holiness. The following verses (15–17) now exhibit the condition of the people as proving the above illustration.
Haggai 2:15. And now apply your heart, I pray you … apply your heart. The people are bidden review their condition from the present time to the period preceding the resumption of the Temple. מָצְלָה in such a connection of course means backward. The time when the work was resumed is specified here, because it was the turning-point in their fortunes. Their condition before that event is recalled for their contemplation that they might connect their distress then suffered with their unfaithfulness; and the brief period succeeding their return to obedience is included because they could not so soon recover from their embarrassments, no harvest having yet intervened. מִטֶּרֶם therefore serves a twofold purpose: מִן (from) denotes that the retrospect should properly begin with the resumption of the work, and טֶרֶם (before) indicates the direction in which the survey should extend. That it is the resumption of building that is referred to, and not the first feeble efforts of the returning exiles, is plain from the circumstances of the people to be described and the lesson to be enforced.
Haggai 2:16. Since such things were.… and there were (but) twenty. מִהְיוֹתָם, literally: from these- things being (so). This means, from the time when affairs began to be in the condition referred to. It is clear that מִן need not have the same reference here as in Haggai 2:15, where it points backward. Here the people are not commanded to take a review of the past; the Prophet is now describing a certain state of affairs consequent upon their unfaithfulness. There it was a retrospect; here it is a view of cause and effect. The force of the verse is precisely that of Haggai 1:9. The harvests did not fulfill expectation. Their actual yield did not even correspond to the appearance of the crops when gathered in. A heap of sheaves which seemed to contain twenty measures (it is best to supply שְׂאָה, as E. V. does), was, when threshed, found to contain but ten. A quantity of grapes usually affording fifty purahs yields only twenty, יקב is applied either to the press itself, or to the vat beneath into which the liquor flows. Here the latter is meant; after pressing, they went to draw from it, expecting the usual proportion of wine. פּוּרָה, which in Isaiah 63:3 means a wine-press, must be used here of the vessel which was ordinarily employed to draw up the wine from the lower receptacle. It naturally came to be adopted as a convenient measure for such purposes, much in the same way as our “bucket” is sometimes referred to as a measure. The LXX. translating μετρητὴς make it = בַּת (a bath). Such an ellipsis as E. V. assumes to exist in the original is incredible.
Haggai 2:17. I have smitten you with blight… saith Jehovah. The immediate cause of the shortness and inferior quality of the crops is now presented. On the connection between the first and second clauses, see Grammatical note. The people themselves are said to have been smitten, because the calamities specified fell upon their crops, the labor of their hands (comp. Virgil’s boumque labores), thus disappointing their nearest hopes. Compare, as exactly analogous, Haggai 1:10-11. These passages further show that there is no need of rendering with E. V.: in all the labor of your hands. The last clause is difficult. Most take אֶהְכֶם as a nominative, and supply שַׁבְתֶּם (ye have not returned) after Amos 4:9, the former and latter parts of which passage present a resemblance to our verse probably fortuitous. But the cases in which אֶת accompanies a nominative are so rare that such a construction is not to be assumed except under exegetical distress. More admissible is the translation of the Vulgate, Itala, Umbreit, et al.: et non fuit in vobis qui reverteretur. To obtain this אֲשֶׁר is supplied, and אִתְּכֶם read. It ought not to be objected with Hitzig and Koehler, that אֶת does not mean among or in, but only beside or with; for 2 Kings 9:25 furnishes an unmistakable instance of the former sense. The extent of the change involved in the Text is a more valid objection. It is better, with Maurer, Hitzig, Ewald, and Keil, to construe according to the principle laid down by Ewald (§ 262 b), that אֵין (properly the construct of אַיִן), being usually followed by a verbal suffix, because containing a verbal conception (= there is not), here takes the sign of the object according to the construction after most verbs. We therefore render: but ye were not towards me, i.e., ye did not return to me. Hos 3:3, 2 Kings 4:11, afford examples of such constructions.
Haggai 2:18. Direct, I beseech you, your heart…direct your heart. This verse has received most diverse and in some instances most extraordinary interpretations. The main difficulty arises from the peculiar use of לְמִן. Most of the English expositors adopt the rendering of E. V. without explanation, or (as Newcome) supply “and” instead of “even” before “from,” in order to make the contradiction involved appear slighter. Fausset thinks that the time is to be measured backward from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, and forward from the founding of the Temple, or that the same adverb, מָצְלָה, can be taken indifferent senses when connected with the same verb, which is absurd. Indeed, it would seem very improbable that מָצְלָה here should be employed in a sense different from that in which it occurs in Haggai 2:15, as Eichhorn, Hitzig, Koehler, et al. assume that it must, in making it refer to the future. If now we could suppose, with the authors last named, and Pressel, that the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month was the day on which the foundation was laid, all difficulty would vanish. The people would again be directed to review their condition, and to contrast it with the blessings which they would henceforth receive, as described in the next verse. But the objections to this are insuperable: (1) The Temple was founded in the second year of Cyrus, fifteen years before (Ezra 3:10); and if we compare Ezra 4:4 with Ezra 4:23-24, we shall see that the work upon it was continued, however feebly, until within two years of the present prophecy, so that the foundation could not have fallen into decay. (2) Haggai 2:3 implies that the new structure had then become somewhat advanced. If it were absolutely necessary to regard למִן as = מִן (from), we should be driven to conclude that the text, as it now stands, is corrupt. But the analogy of such words as לְמֵרָחוֹק (to a distance) אֶל־מִחוּץ (to the outside), shows that the meaning to or until21 is not impossible. So Rosenmüller, Maurer, Ewald, Moore, et al., have understood it. This, it must be confessed, is a somewhat precarious resort; but it seems the only one at all defensible. The sense thus obtained for the whole verse is appropriate. In order to make the blessings to be announced in Haggai 2:19 appear in strong contrast to the distress pictured in Haggai 2:16-17, the Prophet repeats the injunction of Haggai 2:15, but with a longer range of retrospect. The whole period back to the time when the foundation of the Temple was laid in the reign of Cyrus was one of more or less distress on account of the unfaithfulness of the people; for between that time and the present all the efforts that they had made to complete the work were spasmodic and feeble.
Haggai 2:19. Is the grain yet in the barn… I will bless. The parallelism and the connection show that הַזֶּרַע is to be taken not in the sense of corn for sowing, but of corn already raised. The interrogation is equal to a strong negation. עַר probably means here quoad, as to, in which sense it is of frequent occurrence. Maurer prefers to render: ad huc, as yet, a sense undeniable in Job 1:18; but there is no necessity of assuming such a rare usage here. The distress before described is brought nearer to the feelings of the people by the reminder that it was still present. They could then better appreciate the worth of the coming relief. From this day, must be taken in a somewhat loose sense, as denoting the beginning of that period of blessing which was to reward the obedience and devotion now displayed by the people. There is thus seen to be no inconsistency between the promise and the conditions described in Haggai 2:15.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The ceremonial institutes of the ancient Law were designed to illustrate man’s relations to God as being under his favor or under his displeasure. The conditions and treatment of uncleanness, while setting forth most vividly the loathsomeness and defilement of sin, exhibited as clearly the effects of God’s anger against it, which was shown to extend to all the sinner’s experience, removing him beyond the reach of covenant mercies and blessings. While the divine displeasure was manifested towards an individual or a nation, no amount of outward religious observances could appease it, just as no frequency of contact with legally consecrated offerings could impart sacredness to any other object.
2. A return to God by his people under either Covenant has always been followed immediately by the bestowal of blessings peculiar to the Covenant. In Old Testament times a fullness of external mercies was chiefly expected and received. But before these blessings could, in the ordinary course of providence, be vouchsafed, spiritual and higher blessings were invariably imparted (see Haggai 2:19)—the assurance of God’s favor, the abiding presence and assistance of his Spirit. The New Covenant, while it has modified in form many of the provisions and conditions of the Old, is not superior to it in the certainty of its fulfillment; and nothing is better adapted to revive and strengthen our trust in God’s promises than a frequent recurrence to his dealings towards his ancient people.
HOMILETIONAL AND PRACTICAL
Haggai 2:12-14. Our inward character, and not our privileges or associations or outward conduct, will determine God’s attitude toward us.
Calvin: Whoever intrudes external ceremonies on God, in order to pacify Him, trifles with Him most childishly. The fountain of good works is integrity of heart, and the purpose to obey God and consecrate the life to Him.—Whatever we touch is polluted by us, unless there be purity of heart to sanctify our works.
Grotius: There are many ways of vice, but only one of virtue, and that a difficult one.
Fausset: Those who are unclean before God on account of “dead works”, thereby render unclean all their services.
Haggai 2:15-17. Matthew Henry: When we take no care of God’s interests we cannot expect that He will take care of ours.
Moore: Men are inclined to assign any other cause for their sufferings than their sins, yet this is usually the true cause.—Disappointment of our hopes on earth should make us lift our eyes to heaven to learn the reason.—Affliction will harden the heart if it be not referred to God as its author.
Haggai 2:18-19. Moore: Pondering over the past is often the best way of providing for the future.
Fausset: From the moment we unreservedly yield ourselves up to God, we may confidently calculate on his blessing.
Haggai 2:11; Haggai 2:11.—אֶת־הַכּהֲֹנִים is the direct and תּוֹרָה the indirect object.
Haggai 2:12; Haggai 2:12.—This verse contains a sentence virtually conditional, of which הֲיִקְרָּשׁ is the apodosis, and all that precedes the protasis. But as הֲ is properly an interjection the strict translation would be: Behold, let any one bear, etc. Some of the articles of food here mentioned are made definite, being considered severally as forming a distinct class. See Green, § 245 d.
Haggai 2:13; Haggai 2:13.—For the construction of טְמֵא נֶפֶשׁ see the exegesis.
Haggai 2:16; Haggai 2:16.—מִַהְיוֹתָם. See Green, § 267 d, and compare the exegesis.
Haggai 2:16; Haggai 2:16.—בָּא … בָּא are used impersonally: one came, etc. These sentence are virtually conditional, וְ marking the apodosis in each case.
Haggai 2:17; Haggai 2:17.—אֵת כָל־מַעְשֵׂה. This clause is in apposition to the object of the verb in the one preceding.
Haggai 2:17; Haggai 2:17.—אֵין אֶתְכֶם. See the exegesis.
Haggai 2:19; Haggai 2:19.—נָשָׂא agrees with the nearest subject and is understood with the others.—
Haggai 2:19; Haggai 2:19.—אֲבָרֵךְ is here used absolutely. There is no need of supplying an object.
 מַן is not therefore pleonastic; it still marks the limits of the period specified, separating it from the preceding according to its original force.
Preservation of the People in the Convulsions that should destroy the surrounding Nations
20 And there was a word of Jehovah a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth (day) of the month, saying: 21Speak to Zerubbabel, Governor of Judah, saying: I will be shaking22 the heavens and the earth; 22And I will overturn the throne of the kingdoms, and will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and will overthrow the chariot and its riders, and the horses and their riders shall sink down, each by the sword of his brother. 23In that day, saith Jehovah of Hosts I will take thee, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, my servant, saith Jehovah, and will place thee as a signet, for thee have I chosen, saith Jehovah of Hosts.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
In order to supply all that was now needed to motions to strengthen and encourage his people, the Prophet delivers, on the same day, a second message, predicting their safety amidst the upheavals of the Gentile world, and assuring them of God’s guardian care over their rulers as a pledge of this promise.
Haggai 2:20-22. And there was a word of Jehovah.… each by the sword of his brother, The shaking of the heavens and the earth here predicted coincides to some extent with that fore told in Haggai 2:6-7. To establish the distinction that does exist, we have only to assume that the commotions to be excited among the Gentiles to carry out God’s purposes with respect to the world are to be understood as limited by the results to be accomplished. In the passage referred to, as we have seen, the ultimate submission and worship of the world is announced; here we are told of nothing beyond the temporal security of the Jews (for how long a period is not indicated) amidst the mutual destruction of other nationalities. It is most probable that the reference is to wars in which those countries were involved, with which Israel had been brought into contact,—Babylon (whose capture and cruel treatment by Darius Hystaspes, after rebellion against him, occurred soon after the delivery of this prophecy); Persia in its conflicts with Scythia, etc., and especially with Greece; Syria in its protracted wars with Egypt. These limitations seem to be correct: (1) because the prophecy does not say that the Jews would be preserved in contending against other nations, but only during the mutual contentions of the latter; (2) because we find that the Jews did actually succumb to the power of the Gentiles. The throne of the kingdoms here means their government, that which binds men together as a nation (comp. Daniel 7:27). This is based upon the strength of the kingdoms, which is shattered by the destruction of their armies. Every man by the sword of his brother, asserts in a general way that the nations in their wars would become self-destructive as well as mutually destructive.
Haggai 2:23. In that day. This expression denotes, according to its usual prophetic indefiniteness, not the period introduced by the commotions just predicted,—a supposition tenable only by those who assume that by Zerubbabel the Messiah is directly intended,—but the period, of whatever duration it should be, during which the commotions should continue. If the verses just preceding had alluded to any remote consequences of the conflicts between the nations, the former explanation would be admissible. I will place thee as a signe-tring. The signet-ring was held very precious, and worn constantly by its oriental possessor; comp. Song of Solomon 8:6; Jeremiah 11:14. The announcement thus conveyed, that during these convulsions Jehovah, who had chosen Zerubbabel as his servant, would take him under his peculiar and special care, is probably to be accounted for and explained in the following way: The Jews, although it was now several years since they had returned from exile, had been constituted a theocratic nation, and recognized as such by God only through the erection of the Temple, which was in fact the condition of their national existence. In the midst of the convulsions that were to shake the surrounding nations, they would naturally feel themselves insecure. To anticipate and allay this anxiety, it was now announced to them that their government and institutions would be preserved. For Zerubbabel, though appointed by the Persian monarch who was temporarily to be their ruler, was chosen by Jehovah also as the representative of the throne and family (Luke 3:27) of David, which was to stand secure, while the kingdoms of the earth should fall. In this promise Zerubbabel is fitly taken to represent all the rulers of the Jews during the period within the range of the prophecy. He was the first and the greatest of their post-exilic rulers. In a theocratic relation he was the restorer of the dynasty of David. What was promised to him we may regard as equally promised to all the faithful rulers of Judæa who should come after him. They also would be chosen of God and the objects of his watchful care, as the guardians of his people. This we regard as the direct occasion of the promise. It is probable, however, that these words were addressed to Zerubbabel (comp. Zechariah 4:6-10), partly to give him encouragement in his direction and supervision of the work upon the Temple, and in his efforts to mould and control the little community at such a critical period of its history.
This discourse has been regarded by most orthodox commentators as Messianic in the strict sense, namely, as gaining its full and only adequate application when understood of the Messiah and his kingdom. It is clear, however, from the foregoing exposition, that it is Messianic only in so far as the progress and prosperity of God’s people under the Old Covenant prefigured the triumph of the Redeemer’s reign. It may be urged against this restriction that the address is prefaced (Haggai 2:21) by an expression similar to that by which the Messianic promises in Haggai 2:6-9 were introduced. There is this distinction, however, among others, between the two predictions. In the former the discourse relates to the Temple as representing the Church of God in its perpetual and ever-increasing glory and as the refuge of all nations; in the latter we have no indication of a reference to anything beyond the preservation of the theocracy so long as it should suit the divine purposes. The shaking of the heavens and the earth illustrates in both cases the violent commotions among the Gentiles through the divine power, but the result in the one was to be their ultimate conversion, in the other their destruction. Among Anglo-American commentators Henderson and Moore hold to the restricted and indirect Messianic sense.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The destinies of nations and their rulers are determined by their relations to the kingdom of God. When they subserve its advancement, they are not merely preserved by Him, but even become the objects of his special care (comp., e.g., Isaiah 45:1-6). When they cease to do so they are shorn of their strength and fall. This is the highest and clearest lesson of history, written as plainly upon her records, as upon the pages of the Old Covenant.
2. The Jewish nation formed no exception to this divine law. The only respect in which it differed from other nations in this regard, was that it contained for a time the Church of God. This was its glory and its high trust. Its rulers, when faithful to the interests of God’s kingdom committed to their keeping, were, as his chosen ministers, precious in his sight, and the objects of his peculiar care and never-failing help. Through the administration of such the nation prospered. And we know as well that it was through the unfaithfulness of the leaders of the Jewish people, that God’s favor was withdrawn from them and they were blotted out from among the nations.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Haggai 2:22. Do righteousness and truth control our national life? If they do not we may expect national dissolution; perhaps the recurrence of fratricidal war.
Haggai 2:23. Are our rulers controlled in their every act by a regard for righteousness and truth? If they are, they will be guarded and guided by God for the nation’s prosperity and true glory. If they are not, let them remember the denunciations of the prophets and of Christ himself against the unfaithful leaders of the Jews.
Moore: The best protection for any nation, the surest guarantee for its political existence, is a living, working Church in its midst.
Pressel: Even though we are not royal signe-trings, O God, but only little rings on thy eternal hand, how safely are we guarded!
Haggai 2:21-22; Haggai 2:21-22.—The force and construction of מַרְעִישׁ in connection with the following preterites, are the same as those of the same word in Haggai 2:6 : I shall be shaking (a participle being indefinite as to time) and (Shall) have overturned.
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Haggai 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18