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Words of Encouragement. The Glory of the Second Temple
1-9. An encouraging message in counteraction of disparaging comments upon the Temple structure, setting forth the significance and glory of the new Temple.
1. Seventh month] i.e. Tishri, September-October. This message was delivered just four weeks after the beginning of the work. So heartily had every one united in it that the general outline and character of the new edifice had become apparent. The Feast of Tabernacles was in progress. Haggai spoke to the people on the last day of this feast, when all were gathered in one great assembly.
3. Who is left among you] More than 66 years had passed since the destruction of the first Temple, but it was quite possible that there were some who could describe that glorious structure as they had known it. These elders referred to the newer Temple with disparagement, to the dejection and dismay of the people. Gold and silver and rare woods made Solomon’s Temple splendid; the edifice now rising was of rough stone. No wonder the elders became reminiscent.
First] better, ’former.’
4. Be strong] or, ’have courage.’ And work] keep at your task: cp. David’s words to Solomon, 1 Chronicles 28:20.
5. My spirit remaineth] RM ’abideth,’ is standing in your presence. What a basis for continuing courage! cp. Zechariah 4:6. Jehovah was in their midst, as He had always been in times of need. Moreover, they would soon have adequate proof of His presence.
6. Yet once, it is a little while] This is literal, but it evidently means ’But a little while.’ It seems to refer to the shaking, which might be soon expected.
7. Shake all nations] This clearly refers to political overturnings. The prophet expected that the great empire, all aflame with rebellion, would be broken up, and that the Jewish community would have its coveted opportunity. His language, probably figurative, implies corresponding convulsions of nature. The general idea is that God will soon take hold of the situation and deal with it. The desire of all nations shall come] Through Jerome and the Vulgate the old Rabbinical Messianic interpretation of this phrase was given to the Christian church, as if it referred directly to Christ, but the verb ’shall come’ is a plural. More likely the meaning in Haggai’s mind was (as RV), ’And the desirable things of all nations shall come.’ These were under Jehovah’s control. As the nations came to know Him and to render obedience, they would bring with joy to His Temple their choicest gifts. With glory] The Temple then would seem glorious enough.
9. The glory of this latter house] RV ’The latter glory of this house.. than the former,’ a prediction involving courage and foresight. It was spoken to a community politically insignificant, without resources, tributary to the powerful monarch of Persia, engaged in erecting a simple building for religious purposes. It was a triumph of religious idealism. As a permanent promise it beautifully phrases the assurance of the supremacy of Christ and the church in the world. Will I give peace] Where God is established, there is a peace which cannot be disturbed (John 16:33).
10-19. A symbolical message emphasising the significance of the long-continued neglect of God by the community and promising blessings for obedience.
10. Ninth month] i.e. Chislev, or Nov.-Dec. The work on the Temple had now been under way for three months.
11. Ask now the priests.. the law] better, ’ask of the priests a thorah,’ or deliverance. In the absence of a definite statement in the written Law covering a case it was the custom to submit a question of usage to the priests (Deuteronomy 17:8-13). Their reply was a ’thorah’ or law. The passage in the written Law most resembling the judgment here rendered is Leviticus 6:27, Leviticus 6:28.
12. Holy flesh] flesh that has been offered in sacrifice and is being taken home to be consumed. Shall it be holy?] i.e. is the garment in which such holy food is being carried capable of giving holiness to other food? The priests replied that holiness could not be communicated in that way.
13. Unclean by a dead body] A corpse was regarded as making every one who came in contact with it ceremonially unclean. The priests declared that this pollution would extend to whatever these infected persons touched. Uncleanness, then, could be propagated readily; holiness could not.
14. That which they offer there] An effective application of these decisions to the situation. The restoration of the ritual service, as described in Ezra 3, was good in its way but insufficient to make them holy as a people, while their actual neglect of the Temple was enough to pollute everything they did. In God’s sight they could only be regarded as unclean and worthy of punishment.
15. From this day and upward] better, ’and onward.’ He then bids them think of their past sufferings and resumes the thought here begun in Haggai 2:18. There should be a full stop after upward. From before, etc.] A better translation is that of Nowack, ’Before a stone was laid upon a stone in the Temple of the Lord, how did ye fare? When one came to a heap of twenty,’ etc.
16. Twenty measures] Realisations were but half the expectations. Pressfat] winevat. Fifty vessels] rather, ’measures.’
18. And upward] better, ’onwards.’
The day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid] Probably the day on which he was speaking. Haggai refers to their bitter experience up to the day of active work.
19. Is the seed yet in the barn?] Evidently he means to draw out a negative reply. Yet his word is encouraging. God is going to bless them. It takes time to recover from the ill effects of selfishness, but a brighter future was before them.
20-23. An inspiring declaration to Zerubbabel that in him rested the ancient hopes of Israel.
20. Four and twentieth day] the same great festal day.
22. The throne of kingdoms] LXX ’thrones.’ Haggai looked forward to a disruption of the great Persian empire into its tributary nations and to struggles between them, which would give Israel its opportunity.
23. In that day] The day of general political convulsion, would be the day of Messianic advance, and of the establishment of Jehovah’s kingdom. The forwarding of Israel’s spiritual hopes seemed to Haggai, as to earlier prophets, to necessitate the opening of political freedom. Make thee as a signet] the sign of authority. So far as we know Zerubbabel never exercised any real, independent power. He served, however, to embody and keep alive the Hope which gave permanence and power to Israel’s ideals.
Haggai contributed but little to the volume of prophecy, but that little was of great value. At a critical moment in Israel’s history he said the timely, vigorous, ethical word, and put into apprehensible form the great ideal.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Haggai 2". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent