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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Haggai 2

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 2. God Will Restore His People.

This second chapter divides up into three parts, conveying three promises:

1). The promise that God will take this seemingly inadequate Temple that they have built and will make it more glorious than they could ever have dreamed of, so that it will bring blessing to all nations (Haggai 2:1-9).

2). The promise that from now on God will bless them in contrast with what has gone before because of their obedience (Haggai 2:10-19).

3). The promise of the establishment of the everlasting kingdom of which Zerubbabel, as the chosen Davidic heir, is the signet ring (Haggai 2:20-23).


Verses 1-9

God’s House Will Become A House For All Nations, Filled With Glory (Haggai 2:1-9).

God’s first promise springing from their obedience is that, in spite of unpromising beginnings, His House will attract all nations, so that His House will be filled with glory.

Haggai 2:1

‘In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of YHWH by Haggai the prophet, saying,

This was the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. The Day of Atonement would have been held on the tenth of the month (Leviticus 23:26-32, compare Leviticus 16) and then from the fifteenth to the twenty first day would be the Feast, followed on the twenty second day by a solemn rest (Leviticus 23:33-36). This was a time for celebration of the harvests of the past year, and especially for the summer fruits and vintage, and of prayer for the coming rains which would ensure a prosperous harvest in the coming year.

But from what has already been said there would be little cause for celebration. The harvests had been bad, and the rains had not been forthcoming. Thus to some extent at least the celebrations would have been muted. Furthermore their coming each day into the partial ruins of Jerusalem, and their seeing the altar of YHWH open to the skies, surrounded no doubt by the sheds in which the Temple vessels were stored, would remind them of the glories that had once been. Once on this site had stood the glorious Temple of Solomon. And now all that was there was the bare altar surrounded by its sheds.

True they had now determined to rebuild the Temple. But they were fully aware of what a meagre building it was going to be compared with the glory of King Solomon’s, Temple, made even more glorious by its being an enhanced memory from the past (all who were still alive who could remember it had seen it as small children who must have been filled with awe at the site). Indeed when initially they had begun to build it when they first returned, the joy had been mixed with weeping precisely for this reason (Ezra 3:10-13). And Haggai was aware that things were no different now (Haggai 2:3). So it was in the light of these circumstances that Haggai gives his assuring words. Things are about to change.

Haggai 2:2-3

“Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,

And to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest,

And to the remnant of the people, saying,

Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory?

And how do you see it now?

Is it not in your eyes as nothing?”

Haggai is now told to speak to Zerubbabel, Joshua and ‘the remnant of the people’ (those whose hearts are true) and encourage them.

The sense of discouragement that there was among the people comes out here. They were still feeling battered from their poor harvest, and now as they were planning their new building it was coming home to them, and especially to those who had seen the former Temple, what a poor thing it was going to be compared with the one that it was replacing.

But Haggai will have none of it. They must not look at what they are about to build, but must look ahead to what is going to result from it. For on the foundations of the Temple which they are about to build God will do such great things that all men will marvel. He will make it a House for all nations (Haggai 2:7), He will restore blessing to His people (Haggai 2:19), and He will raise up from the house of Zerubbabel the King Who is to rule over all, of Whom Zerubbabel himself is the guarantee (Haggai 2:20-23).

Haggai 2:4-5

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, says YHWH,

And be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest;

And be strong, all you people of the land, says YHWH,

And work, for I am with you, says YHWH of hosts,

According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt,

And my Spirit abode among you, fear you not.”

They must not be discouraged but must be strong. Let them remember how God had made His covenant with them (‘cut with them’, used of cutting a covenant) when they came out of Egypt, and how His Spirit had dwelled among them. So it would be again (compare Zechariah 4:6-7, ‘not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says YHWH’). Thus they must not be afraid. For they must no longer see themselves as ‘Zerubbabel, Joshua and the remnant of the people’ but as ‘Zerubbabel, Joshua andthe people of the land’. With the commitment to the rebuilding and completion of the Temple they are once again ‘the people of the land’ in the eyes of YHWH. And it will all come about in His own good time.

Haggai probably has in mind here the words of God spoke to Joshua on the death of Moses, ‘Be strong and of a good courage, for you will cause this people to inherit the land --- only be strong and very courageous --- be strong and of a good courage, do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for YHWH your God is with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:6-7; Joshua 1:9). There also ‘be strong’ was repeated three times.

Haggai 2:6-9

For thus says YHWH of hosts:

Yet once, it is a little while,

And I will shake the heavens, and the earth,

And the sea, and the dry land,

And I will shake all nations;

And the precious things of all nations shall come,

And I will fill this house with glory, says YHWH of hosts.

The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says YHWH of hosts.

The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says YHWH of hosts,

And in this place will I give peace, says YHWH of hosts.”

And all the He is promising will come about because of His word. For He will ‘shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land, and He will shake the nations’. In other words in every aspect of creation, including the nations, He will exercise His divine power in the bringing about of His will.

Initially this shaking of the nations took place as one after another of the great empires collapsed (as Daniel brings out), but it would continue as the early church went out to the nations and established the Kingly Rule which would shake the Roman Empire to its core. And the Scripture regularly bring out that there will be a final shaking of the nations at the end of time.

The writer to the Hebrews, referring to these words, takes this a step further. He points out that things that can be shaken are clearly temporary and will therefore be removed, leaving the things that cannot be unshaken, which will remain, which he sees as the eternal Kingdom (Hebrews 12:26-28). For to him Mount Zion was now in Heaven, along with the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (and Temple), the innumerable company of angels, the general assembly of the church and the firstborn who are written in Heaven, and the spirits of just men made perfect. Thus he sees these words as fulfilled in the heavenly kingdom established by Jesus Christ.

And the result will be that the nations will bring their precious things and their treasures to YHWH, and He will fill His house with glory. After all, all the gold and the silver already really belonged to Him. Thus He promises that the latter glory of His House will be greater than the former, that is, the initial house that they will build. They are to see it as a seed that will develop into a huge tree. This promise that the treasures of the nations would be brought to YHWH is found regularly in Isaiah (Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 60:5-10; Isaiah 60:16; Isaiah 61:6).

As often with God’s promises the fulfilment of this came in stages:

· Firstly it literally happened in the building of Herod’s Temple, to which indeed people from all nations did come, and to which many treasures and gifts were brought by both Jews and Gentiles, which unquestionably increased the glory of the House.

· The glory came even more to the Temple when the young baby was brought in Who was the future Messiah and of whom Simeon declared that He was ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel’ (Luke 2:38).

· But even moreso was the glory revealed His new Temple, Jesus Christ, Who would be destroyed and in three days would rise again, the Temple that had replaced the Temple of Herod (John 2:19; John 2:21).

· Then it was revealed in His new people who became the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16 and often), who would receive glory after glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

· And finally it was fulfilled in the new Temple in Heaven in all its heavenly splendour (regularly in Revelation), as those from many nations flocked into it as the riches of the nations (Revelation 21:24), a new Temple confirmed in Hebrews 12:22-24, compare Galatians 4:26.


Verses 10-19

The Restoration Of Current Blessing (Haggai 2:10-19).

Two months after the previous message, on the day that the foundations or building of the new Temple were finally established, Haggai brings both a warning and a promise. He does this in terms of whether purity and holiness can be passed on by contact, and whether defilement can be passed on by touch. And the answer in the first case is ‘No’ and in the second case is ‘Yes’.

Thus they are to recognise that the presence of the new Temple among them will not be a guarantee of their holiness, for holiness cannot be passed on by contact. On the other hand they are to be aware lest defilement spread among them, which could so easily happen as they come in contact with each other as those who have not fulfilled YHWH’s requirements. The idea may indicate the fact that because the ‘dead body’ of the ruined Temple has been among them, it has continually defiled them.

So the warning is against them thinking that because they are building YHWH’s Temple that in itself will make them holy, and points out why they have been defiled in the past up to this point with the result that their misfortunes have come on them

Haggai 2:10

‘In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of YHWH by Haggai the prophet, saying,

This was just two months after the previous prophecy, and three months after the words in chapter 1. That three months would have been a busy time with the gathering in of the harvest of summer fruits and the vintage (disappointing though it was), and the keeping of the feasts of the seventh month, including the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. This would have been followed by the sowing of the seed for the coming year once the rains had come. And at the same time the wood for the building of the Temple would have had to be determined on and collected from the hills (Haggai 1:8), the stones which were to be used on the Temple had to be dug out and reshaped, and the area where the Temple was to be built had to be suitably prepared.

Haggai 2:11-12

‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, “Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, “If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any food, shall it become holy?” And the priests answered and said, “No.”

He now publicly asks the priests for a decision on a question of the interpretation of the Law. It was a part of the duty of the priests to explain and interpret the Law, and this demonstrates a fully functional priesthood who were serving the altar that had been built in Jerusalem. In view of the connection by date we are probably to see the two ideas here and in Haggai 2:20-23 connected

The question was as to whether holiness could be passed on from a holy object to one that was not holy, by touch. And the answer expected, and given quite specifically, was ‘no’.

The example used was of the flesh of freewill, votive and thanksgiving offerings, and of the flesh which was the priest’s portion from other sacrifices. All these were ‘holy’, and the part of the coat in which they were carried was holy (Leviticus 6:26-27). But touching that garment did not result in holiness. And the point of this was in order to determine that holiness cannot be passed on merely by contact. He was wanting to bring out that holiness does not work in that way. It rather comes from dedication of something to God. The connection with the foundation of the Temple makes it quite clear that his point in this is that having the Temple among them will not in itself make them holy. Their holiness will depend on what is in their hearts and whether they are obedient to the covenant, on how they behave and on how they live their lives, not on the presence of the Temple.

Haggai 2:13

‘Then said Haggai, “If one who is unclean by reason of a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean?” And the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.”

The next question was to whether contact with a dead thing will render a man unclean, and the expected reply is, ‘Yes’, for that was the clear teaching of the Law.

Haggai 2:14

‘Then answered Haggai and said, “So is this people, and so is this nation before me,” says YHWH, “and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.”

In that case, replies Haggai, so is this people unclean, and so is the nation in front of him, including everything that they do and everything that they offer. (For ‘this people’ compare Haggai 1:2. It clearly refers to the people that Haggai is speaking with, and indicates that they are to some extent at least not His people). This would seem to indicate that their uncleanness is due to their not having built the Temple. Not having a Temple can render them unclean, because the old Temple is as a dead thing among them. Having a Temple, however, will not render them holy, for the reason already given. Nevertheless if they re to be clean they must carry on with the building of the Temple

Haggai 2:15

“And now, I pray you, consider from this day upwards (backward or forward), before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of YHWH,”

As a consequence of his argument he now asks them to consider what has happened in the past and what is happening now as a result of the fact that no stones for the Temple have actually been laid, even though a great deal of preparatory work has already been done..

Haggai 2:16-17

“Through all that time, when one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten,

When one came to the winevat to draw out fifty vessels, there were but twenty.

I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the work of your hands;

And nothing you to me, says YHWH.”

What has happened over that time? The answer is that productivity has been miserable, and all the elements that trouble farmers have been against them. And the result was that they had only had disappointing harvests of various products and of wine once it was all gathered in and stored.

And part of the reason was because they had been smitten by the scorching east wind, by mildew and by hail. These are often described as instruments of YHWH’s judgments. Consider Deuteronomy 28:22; Amos 4:9.

‘And nothing you to me.’ This could mean, ‘you meant nothing to me’, or ‘you gave me nothing acceptable’ (it was all unclean - Haggai 2:14). On the other hand a similar idea in Amos 4-9 is summed up with ‘you did not return to Me’. Thus this may simply mean ‘I received no response from you’. In other words, they had not responded to Him by building the Temple and therefore all these troubles had come on them.

Haggai 2:18-19

“Consider, I pray you, from this day and upwards (forward), from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, since the day that the foundation of YHWH’s temple was laid, consider it. Is the seed yet in the barn? Yes, the vine, and the fig-tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive-tree have not brought forth. From this day will I bless you.”

That has been the past as a result of their failing to build the Temple of YHWH through apathy and fear. But what now about the future? What does the future hold now that they have laid the foundation of YHWH’s Temple (or have started to restore YHWH’s Temple)? It does not look good. They have sown what seed they had and now there is nothing left in the barn if the harvests fail. The vine and the fig-tree and the pomegranate have previously been unproductive. So what will happen? YHWH give His answer, ‘From this day I will bless you.’ Now that they have demonstrated their faithfulness to Him in a practical way their future is assured. From now on all their efforts will be blessed.


Verses 20-23

The Glorious Future And The Coming Of The Messiah And Of God’s Kingdom (Haggai 2:20-23).

Here we have the third of the three promises. The first was that the Temple would be for all nations, the second that their near future would flourish, and now thirdly that the Prince who has established the Temple is to be seen as God’s symbol of the coming of His everlasting Kingdom.

Haggai 2:20

‘And the word of YHWH came the second time to Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,’

On that same day as fruitfulness was promised for the future, God comes with an even greater promise.

Haggai 2:21-22

“Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying,

I will shake the heavens and the earth,

And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms,

and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations,

And I will overthrow the chariots, and those who ride in them,

And the horses and their riders will come down, every one by the sword of his brother.”

Haggai is to speak to the Governor of Judah and declare that God was at some unstated time to act on Heaven and earth (shake Heaven and earth) and would overthrow the throne of the kingdoms (whoever at the time was ruling those kingdoms) and would destroy the strength of the kingdoms and the nations, and would overthrow the chariots and those who rode in them (the elite), and would bring down the horses and riders, and it would all happen as they fought each other.

As with many of the prophets before him he depicts the days before the everlasting kingdom as being days of warfare and trouble, as the nations of the world are involved in a universal struggle (compare Joel 3:9-16; Ezekiel 38-39; Zechariah 14:13-15), although ‘the world’ that they have in mind is mainly that in the Ancient Near East.

It is always possible that this shaking is also to be seen in terms of earthquakes or of other convulsions on the earth (caused say by asteroids), for both are possibly portrayed in Revelation depending on how literally we take the descriptions. But dogmatism is clearly ruled out. In the end it is YHWH Who will shake the world as He pleases.

Haggai 2:23

“In that day,” says YHWH of hosts, “will I take you, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel,” says YHWH, “and will make you as a signet. For I have chosen you,” says YHWH of hosts.’

But His end purpose is that in that day He may take Zerubbabel His servant, through his seed, and make him His signet ring, because he is the chosen of YHWH.

At first sight this might appear to signify that Zerubbabel was necessarily to be the Messiah. But God’s promises were often given to a man and his seed. To Him a man included his seed. We can compare the promises made to Abraham which included his seed, for the land would never strictly be given to him (Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 13:17; etc), and the promises made to David and his seed (2 Samuel 7:9; 2 Samuel 7:13; 2 Samuel 7:16), so that future king could actually be called ‘David’ (e.g. Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25). Thus His promise here is given to Zerubbabel and his seed. Zerubbabel is being assured that his house will so prosper that one day a ‘son’ of Zerubbabel will arise who would be the coming King. And Jesus Christ was of the seed of Zerubbabel (Matthew 1:13-16). And He was God’s signet ring, the stamped out image of God’s substance (Hebrews 1:3). And the earth was shaken by His coming and today He reigns over His everlasting kingdom and will one day return to finally bring about its full consummation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Haggai 2:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/haggai-2.html. 2013.

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Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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