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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Haggai 1

 

 

Verses 1-4

MESSAGE OF REBUKE FOR RELIGIOUS INDIFFERENCE, 1-11.

The Book of Haggai contains four separate prophetic utterances (Haggai 1:1-11; Haggai 2:1-23); to the first is added an historical section (Haggai 1:12-15), setting forth the effect of this utterance upon the hearers.

The first discourse contains a rebuke of religious indifference and an exhortation to rebuild the temple. Haggai 1:1 gives the time when the discourse was delivered and the names of the persons to whom it was addressed; Haggai 1:2-11 reproduce the discourse. The prophet rebukes the religious indifference that has permitted the people to erect comfortable houses for themselves, while the temple remained in ruins (Haggai 1:2-4); he calls attention to the disappointments, distress, and suffering which they were experiencing as a result of drought, and tells them that these afflictions have come to them as divine judgments for their religious apathy. If they would find relief they must speedily restore the dwelling place of Jehovah (Haggai 1:5-11).

Haggai 1:1 is an integral part of the report of Haggai’s first address (compare Zechariah 1:1).

The second year of Darius — Darius Hystaspis reigned from 521 to 486 B.C.; his second year, therefore, is 520.

The king — It was not necessary to add “of Persia,” for the king of Persia was the only prominent ruler with whom the Jews were acquainted during the early part of the postexilic period, and until the fall of the Persian empire he was the king, because he was their king (compare Ezra 5:4).

The sixth month — Called Elul; it corresponds to the latter part of August and the first part of September (compare Nehemiah 6:15).

The first day — Which was the new moon festival, when the people gathered for worship — a splendid opportunity for reaching a large number; besides, on such a day the lack of a house of worship would be felt most keenly. Chronological notes of this character are found only in postexilic writings; the greater exactness is undoubtedly due to Babylonian influence.

By Haggai — Literally, by the hand of Haggai (compare Haggai 1:13; see on Micah 5:12). Haggai was the instrument used by Jehovah to make known his will. On the person of the prophet see Introduction, p. 547. The message was addressed especially, though not exclusively (compare Haggai 1:4 ff.), to the civil and ecclesiastical heads of the community.

Zerubbabel… governor of Judah — Mentioned also by Zechariah as the civil ruler. How he came to be governor we do not know. He is named among the first exiles who returned (Ezra 2:2), but the governor appointed by Cyrus is called Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:8; Ezra 5:14). Some have thought that the two names belong to one and the same person, but this is exceedingly doubtful. It is more probable that Zerubbabel was the successor of Sheshbazzar as governor of Judah.

Son of Shealtiel — See Ezra 3:2; Ezra 5:2; compare 1 Chronicles 3:19.

Joshua… , the high priest — Zechariah also names Joshua as the head of the priesthood (see especially Zechariah 3:1 ff.).

The son of Josedech — R.V., “Jehozadak,” which is a fuller form of the same name; it means Jehovah is righteous (compare Zechariah 6:11; Ezra 3:2).

Haggai 1:2 ff. contain the words of the prophet.

Thus speaketh Jehovah of hosts — The verb is the same as that rendered “saith” in the rest of the book. In Haggai as in Zechariah the affirmation that the prophet is the spokesman of Jehovah occurs very frequently (see on Zechariah 1:3). For Jehovah of hosts see on Hosea 12:5.

This people — The people gathered at the new moon celebration. The phrase may be used in a contemptuous sense (Haggai 2:14), though it does not necessarily imply reproach (compare Isaiah 8:11-12).

The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built — R.V., “It is not the time for us to come, the time for Jehovah’s house to be built.” The ancient versions omit the first “time,” and, since the construction of the present Hebrew text is very awkward, we may be justified in doing the same, so that the clause will read, “The time is not (yet) come for the building of Jehovah’s house” (see margin R.V.). The people may have misunderstood the seventy years of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10). If they reckoned from the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 the time would not be accomplished until four years after the delivery of this prophecy. For other causes that may have been responsible for the delay see Introduction, p. 549. However, Haggai considers the delay inexcusable. On the view that previous to the preaching of Haggai no steps had been taken toward the rebuilding of the temple see Introduction, pp. 550f.; compare H.P. Smith, Old Testament History, pp. 344ff.

In Haggai 1:4 ff. the prophet, after affirming once more that he is the spokesman of Jehovah, points out the unfairness of the people’s neglect. They have left Jehovah without a dwelling place, while they themselves live in costly and magnificently decorated homes. Surely they cannot urge poverty or lack of resources as an excuse.

Is it time — R.V., “Is it a time”; a proper or fit time.

For you, O ye — R.V., “for you yourselves.” Their own interests should be of less consequence than the interests of their God.

Cieled houses — Houses whose walls and ceilings were covered or inlaid with costly woodwork. Such decorations were exceedingly expensive (compare 1 Kings 6:9; Jeremiah 22:14), and yet these people, who, judging from the words of the prophet, urged poverty as an excuse for the neglect of the temple, used them extensively.

And this house lie waste — A circumstantial clause, which should be rendered with R.V., “while this house lieth waste.”


Verse 5-6

5, 6. If at present they are experiencing misfortune, if the results of their labors are disappointing, if their crops do not prosper, all these calamities are a judgment from Jehovah for their indifference and neglectfulness (compare Haggai 1:9). For the philosophy underlying this argument see on Amos 3:6, and at the close of comments on Amos 4:11.

Consider your ways — Literally, set your hearts on your ways. A favorite phrase with Haggai (compare Haggai 1:7; Haggai 2:15; Haggai 2:18). Their ways are their conduct, but, as Haggai 1:6 indicates, the consequences of the conduct are to be included in their considerations. Jerome explains your ways as equivalent to “what you have done and what you have suffered.” Their experiences have been startling enough to cause them to stop and think. A curse seemed to rest upon all their possessions and undertakings.

Bring in — Harvest. Harvests had turned out badly; abundant sowing had produced sparingly (compare Isaiah 5:8-10). For how many years this continued we do not know. The same curse was seen everywhere. What they ate and drank did not satisfy their hunger and thirst, their clothes failed to warm them, and the wages of the day laborer were used up as rapidly as if they had been placed in a bag full of holes.


Verses 7-11

Haggai 1:7 urges the people again to stop and consider. It is possible, however, that “consider your ways” is an erroneous repetition from Haggai 1:5, and that Haggai 1:6 should be followed immediately by the direct appeal to build the temple (Haggai 1:8), introduced by the common formula, “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts.”

Go up to the mountain — To gather wood for building material. The article is used generically: any mountain upon which building material could be found, not necessarily Mount Lebanon. At the time of Haggai the hills around Jerusalem may have been covered with woods.

Bring wood — The term may include building material of every sort. Wood would be the most important, since stones from the ruins of the first temple might be used in the foundation of the new. After gathering the material they were to proceed with the building operations.

I will take pleasure in it — Which he will prove by taking his abode there (compare Psalms 132:13-14).

I will be glorified — Better, I will glorify myself. The completion of the temple will mark the dawn of the Messianic age, when Jehovah will glorify himself by pouring his blessing upon his people in abundant measure.

Haggai 1:9-10 enforce the appeal of Haggai 1:8 by calling attention once more to the present calamity and by emphasizing the thought that it is the direct result of their neglectfulness. They were disappointed in their expectations of a rich harvest, and the little they did reap vanished without doing any good.

I did blow upon it — So that it vanished. Misfortune came not by chance; Jehovah sent it because they neglected his house while living in luxury in their own (compare Haggai 1:4). The description of the judgment is continued in Haggai 1:10-11.

Over you — Better, R.V., “for your sake.” On account of your transgressions.

Dew — Jehovah withheld the dew, which is of great importance in Palestine (see on Hosea 14:5), and as a result of this and of the drought mentioned in Haggai 1:11, the land remained barren. The tenses should be changed in English so as to agree with those of 9a and 11. Some of the expressions in the original are peculiar, and several minor emendations have been proposed, but even with these the thought remains the same.

I called for a drought — As a means of judgment (see on Amos 4:7). “Drought,” Hebrews horebh, corresponds to “lieth waste,” Hebrews harebh (Haggai 1:4; Haggai 1:9). Because they left his house harebh he punished them with horebh, the judgment being according to the lex talionis.

Upon the mountains — So that the forests suffered.

Corn,… new wine,… oil — The chief products of Palestine (see on Joel 1:10).

That which the ground bringeth forth — All products of the soil not previously mentioned. The terrible drought brought intense suffering to man and beast (see on Joel 1:18).

All the labor of the hands — The drought made of no effect all the labor expended in the cultivation of the soil (compare Psalms 128:2).


Verse 12

12. Then — As a result of the message contained in Haggai 1:2-11. How soon the effect manifested itself is not stated — perhaps immediately, perhaps not until after the people had meditated upon it. At any rate, within little more than three weeks actual operations commenced. The names mentioned are those found in Haggai 1:1 (see there).

The remnant of the people — Around a remnant of the people, saved from the national calamity, centered the hopes of the pre-exilic prophets (see on Amos 5:15). The postexilic community was, in a sense, this remnant, and to it the term is applied here. But this remnant proved faithless, and it was soon found that the hope of the future lay with a remnant within the remnant.

Obeyed — They did not set to work immediately, but they laid to heart the message, and the prophet saw indications of their readiness to obey.

As — Equivalent to in keeping with the fact that. Several of the ancient versions add in this clause “to them.” The people obeyed the words of Haggai, as was in keeping with the fact that Jehovah their God had sent him unto them.

Did fear — Not in the sense in which the verb is used so frequently in the Old Testament (see on Zephaniah 3:7), but “they were afraid.” The prophet had pointed out to them the great power of Jehovah, and they wondered what other terrible calamities he might send.


Verses 12-15

THE RESULT OF THE REBUKE — THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE, Haggai 1:12-15.

The preaching of Haggai aroused the consciences of leaders and people, so that they “feared Jehovah” (Haggai 1:12). When he saw indications of a revival of interest he changed his message of rebuke into one of encouragement and promise (Haggai 1:13); whereupon, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, they began building operations (Haggai 1:14-15).


Verse 13

13. The “fear” can hardly be considered an evidence of a “penitential state of mind”; nevertheless the prophet saw that the indifference had been shaken and that a message of encouragement might prove effective.

Messenger — The prophet is called a messenger of Jehovah, because he is sent by him (12) to deliver his message.

In Jehovah’s message — The root of this noun is the same as that of “messenger,” and the phrase seems to mean “in the capacity of a messenger of Jehovah,” that is, not of his own accord.

I am with you — The task may seem difficult, but with Jehovah’s co-operation assured they need not fear (compare Haggai 2:4; see on Zechariah 4:6-7). Some commentators question the originality of Haggai 1:13, because (1) it interrupts the thought, Haggai 1:14 being the natural continuation of Haggai 1:12; (2) Haggai is not called a prophet, as elsewhere, but a messenger, which is thought to point to diversity of authorship.


Verse 14-15

14, 15. The promise that Jehovah would co-operate filled the people with enthusiasm.

Stirred up the spirit — He imparted a spirit of willingness and determination (see on Joel 2:28), and enthusiastically they set to work on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, just twenty-three days after Haggai had first rebuked their indifference (compare Ezra 5:1-2). There is insufficient reason for doubting the originality of Haggai 1:15.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Haggai 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/haggai-1.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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