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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Haggai 2

 

 

Verses 1-3

Haggai 2:1-3. In the seventh month, &c. — For the further encouragement of the people to proceed in rebuilding the temple, Haggai was sent again to them, about a month after he had been sent the first time, to assure them from God, that the glory of this latter temple, how little appearance soever there might be of it now, should be greater than that of the former. This message, or prophecy, of Haggai, was communicated a little before Zechariah was sent to them for the like purpose. Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? — About sixty-six years had elapsed from the destruction of the former temple, (before Christ 587,) to the time when this prophecy was delivered; (see notes on Ezra 6:15, and Blair’s tables;) nevertheless, it appears by this question of the prophet, that some of the Jews there present had seen the former temple when young, before they were carried to Babylon, and could remember what a magnificent building it was. Is it not in your eyes as nothing — That is, in comparison of the former. The words are an elegant Hebraism. We learn from Ezra 3:12, (where see the note,) that when the foundation of the second temple was laid, in the second year of Cyrus, many of the ancient men, that had seen the first house, wept to see how much this second was likely to fall short of the glory of it. Undoubtedly the slender substance of the Jews at this time, and the haste they were in to rebuild the temple, that they might have a place for public worship, made them lay the foundation of it at first of much smaller dimensions than those of the former temple, and also to build it with less strength and magnificence.


Verse 4-5

Haggai 2:4-5. Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel — Do thou and all the rest of you exert yourselves, and proceed in rebuilding the temple with spirit and pleasure; for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts — And will enable you to bring the work to a happy issue. According to the word that I covenanted with you — I will fulfil to you what I promised to your ancestors, namely, that I would be their God, and that it should be well with them, if they obeyed my voice; that I would keep them from evil, and moreover, bless and prosper them; (see the margin;) and so will I act toward you upon the same conditions, namely, your obeying my voice. So my Spirit remaineth — Rather, So my Spirit shall remain among you, namely, as a source of strength and courage, of wisdom and understanding, of zeal and fervency, to carry you through this work. Fear ye not — Let no discouraging fears or apprehensions have place in your minds, or weaken your hands.


Verse 6-7

Haggai 2:6-7. Yet once — Or, once more, ετι απαξ, as the LXX. render it, whom St. Paul follows, Hebrews 12:26. The phrase implies such an alteration, or change of things, as should be permanent, and should not give place to any other, as the apostle there expounds it. The expression, says Bishop Newcome, “has a clear sense, if understood of the evangelical age: for many political revolutions succeeded, as the conquest of Darius Codomanus, and the various fortunes of Alexander’s successors; but only one great and final religious revolution;” namely, a revolution, not introductory to, but consequent upon the coming of the Messiah; the change of the Mosaic economy for that of the gospel. A little while — Though it was five hundred years from the time of the uttering of this prophecy to the coming of the Messiah, which was the event here intended, yet it might be called a short time, when compared with that which had elapsed from the creation to the giving of the law, or from the giving of the law to the return of the Jews from Babylon, and the erection of this second temple. And I will shake the heavens and the earth, &c. — These and similar figurative expressions are often used in the prophetical Scriptures, to signify great commotions and changes in the world, whether political or religious. The political ones here intended began in the overthrow of the Persian monarchy by Alexander, within two centuries after this prediction, which event was followed by commotions, destructive wars and changes among his successors, till the Macedonian empire, which had overturned the Persian, with the several kingdoms into which it was divided, was itself subdued by the Roman. The expressions, the sea and the dry land, are added as a particular explication of what is meant by the general term earth, and signify only what is expressed without a figure in the next clause. I will shake all nations — All nations were more or less involved in, and shaken by, the wars that overthrew the Persian kingdom, and still more in and by those that overturned the empire of the Greeks. Grotius explains this prophecy as being, in part, at least, accomplished by the extraordinary phenomena in the heavens, and on the earth, at the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ, and mission of the Holy Spirit. But certainly the other is the interpretation chiefly intended. And the Desire of all nations — Christ, most desirable to all nations, and who was desired by all that knew their own misery, and his sufficiency to save them; who was to be the light of the Gentiles, as well as the glory of his people Israel: such a guide and director as the wise men among the heathen longed for; and whose combat was the expectation of the Jewish nation, and the completion of all the promises made to their fathers. And I will fill this house with glory — A glory not consisting in the magnificence of its structure, its rich ornaments, or costly sacrifices, which would have been only a worldly glory; but a glory that was spiritual, heavenly, and divine.


Verse 8-9

Haggai 2:8-9. The silver is mine — Solomon’s temple was more richly adorned with silver and gold than this, and I, that am the Lord of all the world, could easily command the riches of it, and bring them together for beautifying this my house, if I took delight in, or wanted any thing of this sort. A like expression as this is used, Psalms 50:10, with regard to sacrifices. The glory of this latter house, &c. — The glory of this second temple shall exceed that of the former, not in riches or costly ornaments, but in this, that there the prince of peace shall make his appearance, and there the gospel of peace shall be preached and published. See Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:5; Ephesians 2:14. “Notwithstanding the former temple had the Urim and Thummim, the ark containing the two tables of the law, (written with the finger of God,) the pot of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the cloud that overshadowed the mercy-seat, and was the symbol of the divine presence; yet the glory of this latter house shall be greater by the appearance, doctrines, and miracles of Christ. Some interpret this passage of the richer decorations in the latter temple; but it may well be doubted whether the second temple could exceed that of Solomon in the splendour and costliness of its ornaments. The presumption is, that the former temple was more magnificent and sumptuous in its furniture than the latter, though inferior to it in point of magnitude. Prideaux values the gold, with which the holy of holies alone was overlaid, at four million three hundred and twenty thousand pounds sterling. P.I.B. 3. Ann. 534.” — Newcome. What were the magnificence and beauty which adorned the former temple? What was even the Shechinah, the resplendent cloud of glory, which rested upon the mercy-seat, compared with the emanations of the divine perfections from Immanuel: the almighty power and boundless goodness exerted in acts of beneficence which shone forth in Christ, when the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them; and the infinite wisdom displayed in his divine discourses, when he taught daily in the temple, Luke 19:47, and his doctrine dropped as the rain, and his speech distilled as the dew? And never, surely, was such peace given to men by any other as was imparted by and through him; peace between God and man, between Jews and Gentiles, and between man and man, wherever his religion is received in the truth and power of it: peace, spiritual, internal, and heavenly; peace of conscience, tranquillity of mind, serenity of heart; a peace which, as the apostle observes, passeth all understanding, all purely rational conception, or, which no one can comprehend, save he that receives it.


Verses 10-14

Haggai 2:10-14. In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month — At which time, as appears from Haggai 2:16; Haggai 2:19, (the materials being collected,) they began to go on again with the building of the temple. Ask now concerning the law — What the law saith in this case. The question was put to the priests, whose office it was to put a difference between holy and unholy, between clean and unclean, Leviticus 10:10 : that is, to be thoroughly acquainted with all the ceremonial laws, and to instruct others concerning them. If one bear, or carry, holy flesh — Part of the sacrifice, legally sanctified, or made holy, by the altar on which the whole was sanctified; in the skirt — In the lap; of his garment — Or in any other cloth; and if this cloth touch any common thing, as bread, &c., shall that become legally holy? And the priests said, No — By the answer of the priests in this, compared with the following verse, we find, that legal holiness was not so easily communicated as legal impurity: for the holy flesh did not make any thing that was touched by it holy; but the touch of a person who was unclean rendered holy things unclean. Thus is vice much more easily contracted than virtue! Broad and easy is the way that leadeth to sin. but narrow and difficult is that which leads to holiness! Then said Haggai — Now a second case is proposed; If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these — Namely, the things mentioned in the former verse, bread, pottage, wine, &c.; shall it be unclean? — Shall that which the unclean person doth touch become unclean? Though a touch of what is holy will not make holy, yet, will not a touch of what is polluted defile? and the priests answered, It shall be unclean — The law was plain in this case: see Numbers 19:11. The least defect is sufficient to make a thing evil, whereas, to make it good and perfect, a concurrence of all good qualities is requisite. So is this people before me — In like manner, saith God, your neglect of my temple, and your disregard of my worships have made you unclean, as if you had contracted legal pollution by touching a dead body; and rendered every thing you undertake, even the sacrifices you offer on my altar, unclean and unacceptable.


Verses 15-17

Haggai 2:15-17. And now, consider from this day, &c. — Reflect on what has happened to you, from the time that a stop was put to the building of the temple, after the first foundation of it was laid, till you began again to rebuild it. And upward — Or, forward. He had bid them look back, Haggai 1:5; Haggai 1:7; now he bids them look forward. Since those days — All the time the temple lay neglected. When one came to a heap — Namely, of corn, which seemed likely to produce twenty measures; there were but ten Only half the quantity expected was found to be produced, through the poverty of the ear. The verse, it must be observed, according to the present rendering, is very elliptical; but if the first clause be explained by the second, which it ought to be, the sense will clearly appear to be this: When one came to a heap for twenty measures; that is, when a person came to a heap of corn on his floor, either of sheaves unthrashed, or of corn unwinnowed, and expected that it would have produced twenty measures after it was thrashed and winnowed, to his great disappointment he had but ten out of it. Such also was the case of those who came to draw out fifty measures of wine from the wine-press. I smote you with blasting —

Burning and scorching winds; and with hail — Which even in cold countries many times destroys corn, fruits, and trees, by its violence; but in those hot countries does it much oftener. In all the labours of your hands In all that you sowed or planted; yet ye turned not to me — Ye did not lay my judgments to heart, nor consider that they were inflicted for your sin, in neglecting to rebuild my temple, and restore my worship in it.


Verse 18-19

Haggai 2:18-19. Consider now, from this day and upward — That is, forward. In the 15th verse the prophet exhorted them to reflect upon the calamities they had suffered, from the time the rebuilding of the temple was intermitted. Now he bids them look forward, from the day the building was recommenced, (see Haggai 1:15,) and they would find a visible change in their affairs for the better. Even from the day that the foundation was laid, &c. — The prophet expresses the carrying on of the building as if it were laying the foundation anew, because the work had been so long interrupted; (compare Zechariah 8:9;) but yet there is no doubt to be made that they built upon the same foundation which had been laid some years before, of which we have an account Ezra 3:8, and did not lay a new foundation. Is the seed yet in the barn — Is the harvest already laid up in the barn? or any fruits of the earth gathered in? No, certainly: for this is but the ninth month, (answering to our November,) when no judgment can be formed what will be the increase of the year following; yet, from this time, I promise you the blessing of a fruitful year, as an encouragement to you to carry on the building. Yea, as yet the vine and the fig-tree hath not brought forth — No sign yet appears what vintage you shall have, what store of wine, oil, figs, and pomegranates; yet by the word of God I tell you, you shall be blessed in them all, and have a large produce.


Verses 20-22

Haggai 2:20-22. Again the word of the Lord came unto Haggai — Probably on the same day that he uttered what precedes, from Haggai 2:10; speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah — The same title which is given to him chap. Haggai 1:1; in which character he was the type of the Messiah, to whom the following words chiefly belong. I will shake the heavens and the earth — I will cause great commotions, and bring great things to pass. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms — This is supposed to be spoken of the overthrow of the Persian empire, in Egypt, which, lying near to the Jewish territories, was regarded by them with great awe; and therefore its subversion was foretold to them, to encourage them to go on in the rebuilding of the temple. I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen — Or, of the nations. The strength of the Persians, whose empire consisted of many kingdoms, or nations, was broken in a most remarkable manner by the little country of Greece. Such vast overthrows, both by sea and land, as they received from the Greeks, are scarcely to be paralleled. The horses and their riders shall come down — Shall fall to the earth; every one by the sword of his brother — That is, of his fellow-creature. Perhaps the different nations which should be concerned in these commotions, namely, the Persians, Egyptians, and Greeks, are here called brothers, because they were all idolaters, or worshippers of fictitious gods.


Verse 23

Haggai 2:23. In that day will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, &c. — Amidst the commotions which I will cause in the world, I will so order it, that Judea shall remain safe under thy government, O Zerubbabel, and thy successors, and be molested by none. A signet, or seal, particularly a royal one, is kept with great care; therefore the promise of making Zerubbabel as a signet, signified keeping him safe, or preserving him as a person of great estimation. For I have chosen thee — To be the ruler of my people. This whole prophecy, from Haggai 2:21, addressed to Zerubbabel, is considered by Bishop Chandler, Mr. Lowth, and many others, as parallel to that contained in Haggai 2:6-9; that the same commotions and shaking of nations are intended in both passages; and therefore that by Zerubbabel here, the Messiah, typified by him, is chiefly intended. That the prediction could not be properly and fully accomplished in Zerubbabel, personally considered, is evident, as in all likelihood he did not live many years after the finishing of the temple, and certainly did not see any of those great changes here foretold; and therefore the Messiah must be here described under the name of Zerubbabel, as he elsewhere is under that of David. He is, indeed, the signet on God’s right hand; for all power is given to him, and derived from him, he being constituted Head of the church, and Judge of the world. In him the great charter of the gospel is signed and sanctified, and it is in him that all the promises of God are yea and amen. And what is foretold, Haggai 2:22, respecting the overthrow of the throne of kingdoms, may probably ultimately refer to his second coming, or to that illustrious display of divine power, whereby a period shall be put to all anti-christian empires, and the kingdoms of this world shall be made the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ, Daniel 2:44; Revelation 11:15.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Haggai 2:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/haggai-2.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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