Haggai 1:4
Is it time for you, O you, to dwell in your paneled houses, and this house lie waste?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Is it time for you . . .—Literally, Is it time for you to dwell in your houses, and those ceiled?—i.e., probably with cedar and other costly woods. A crushing retort. If the adverse decree of Artaxerxes, which disallowed the building of Jerusalem (Ezra 4:21), had not hindered them from erecting magnificent residences for themselves, how could it reasonably excuse an utter neglect of God’s House?

1:1-11 Observe the sin of the Jews, after their return from captivity in Babylon. Those employed for God may be driven from their work by a storm, yet they must go back to it. They did not say that they would not build a temple, but, Not yet. Thus men do not say they will never repent and reform, and be religious, but, Not yet. And so the great business we were sent into the world to do, is not done. There is a proneness in us to think wrongly of discouragements in our duty, as if they were a discharge from our duty, when they are only for the trial of our courage and faith. They neglected the building of God's house, that they might have more time and money for worldly affairs. That the punishment might answer to the sin, the poverty they thought to prevent by not building the temple, God brought upon them for not building it. Many good works have been intended, but not done, because men supposed the proper time was not come. Thus believers let slip opportunities of usefulness, and sinners delay the concerns of their souls, till too late. If we labour only for the meat that perishes, as the Jews here, we are in danger of losing our labour; but we are sure it shall not be in vain in the Lord, if we labour for the meat which lasts to eternal life. If we would have the comfort and continuance of temporal enjoyments, we must have God as our Friend. See also Lu 12:33. When God crosses our temporal affairs, and we meet with trouble and disappointment, we shall find the cause is, that the work we have to do for God and our own souls is left undone, and we seek our own things more than the things of Christ. How many, who plead that they cannot afford to give to pious or charitable designs, often lavish ten times as much in needless expenses on their houses and themselves! But those are strangers to their own interests, who are full of care to adorn and enrich their own houses, while God's temple in their hearts lies waste. It is the great concern of every one, to apply to the necessary duty of self-examination and communion with our own hearts concerning our spiritual state. Sin is what we must answer for; duty is what we must do. But many are quick-sighted to pry into other people's ways, who are careless of their own. If any duty has been neglected, that is no reason why it should still be so. Whatever God will take pleasure in when done, we ought to take pleasure in doing. Let those who have put off their return to God, return with all their heart, while there is time.Is it time for you - You, being what you are, the creatures of God, "to dwell in your ceiled houses," more emphatically, in your houses, and those "ceiled," probably with costly woods, such as cedar . But where then was the excuse of want of means? They imitated, in their alleged poverty, what is spoken of as magnificent in their old kings, Solomon and Shallum, but not having, as Solomon first did (1 Kings 6:9, ויספן), "covered the house of God with beams and rows of cedar" . "Will ye dwell in houses artificially adorned, not so much for use as for delight, and shall My dwelling-place, wherein was the Holy of holies, and the cherubim, and the table of showbread, be bestreamed with rains, desolated in solitude, scorched by the sun?"

"With these words carnal Christians are reproved, who have no glow of zeal for God, but are full of self-love, and so make no effort to repair, build, or strengthen the material temples of Christ, and houses assigned to His worship, when aged, ruinous, decaying or destroyed, but build for themselves curious, voluptuous, superfluous dwellings. In these the love of Christ gloweth not; these Isaiah threateneth, Isaiah 5:8, Isaiah 5:12. "Woe to you who join house to house and field to field, and regard not the work of the Lord!"

To David and Solomon the building of God's temple was their heart's desire; to early Christian Emperors, to the ages of faith, the building of Churches; now mostly, owners of lands build houses for this world's profit, and leave it to the few to build in view of eternity, and for the glory of God.

4. Is it time—It is not time (Hag 1:2), ye say, to build Jehovah's house; yet how is it that ye make it a fit time not only to build, but to "dwell" at ease in your own houses?

you, O ye—rather, for "you, you"; the repetition marking the shameful contrast between their concern for themselves, and their unconcern for God [Maurer]. Compare a similar repetition in 1Sa 25:24; Zec 7:5.

ceiled—rather, "wainscoted," or "paneled," referring to the walls as well as the ceilings; furnished not only with comfort but luxury, in sad contrast to God's house not merely unadorned, but the very walls not raised above the foundations. How different David's feelings (2Sa 7:2)!

Is it time? you think it full time to build your own houses, you judge it seasonable enough to lay out much cost on adorning them, what pretence can you make that it is not seasonable to build my house?

For you, Jews, who were by a king (that knew not your God) sent to build my house, you unthankful and forgetful ones.

To dwell; to settle yourselves securely, and for continuance with stateliness.

Ceiled; searched and with cedar wainscot, curiously carved and covered, and as richly adorned as if you were full of treasures.

Houses: it seems to intimate some of them had more than one house, a city and a country house, and whilst God’s house lay waste; they thus lavish out their wealth on private worldly conveniences, but grudge the charge on God’s house. Can you thus live without a temple, an altar, a sacrifice, and yet cannot live without stately houses? Do you owe so much to yourselves, and so little to your God? so much to your bodies, so little to your souls?

Lie waste; in its rubbish, or in bare, naked foundations without any superstructure. Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your panelled houses,.... They could not only find time, leisure, and convenience to build houses to dwell in; but to wainscot them, and line them with boards of cedar, as the Targum; as bad as the times were complained of; and could sit in them, indulging themselves in luxury, ease, and sloth; and why then was it not a fit and convenient time as well to build the house of the Lord in?

and this house lie waste? or, "and shall this house lie waste?" or, "when this house lies waste?" (o) not indeed in its rubbish and ruins, as it was demolished by the Chaldeans, and left; but with a bare foundation, laid some years ago; and ever since neglected; the superstructure not carried on, and much less built up to be fit for service; and therefore might be said with propriety to lie waste and desolate, being unfinished, unfit for use, and no regard had unto it. David was of another mind, 2 Samuel 7:2 and truly religious persons will be more concerned for the house of God than for their own houses.

(o) "et domus ista deserta manebit?" Drusius; "quum domus haec vasta est?" Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "dum domus haec desolata est?" Cocceius.

Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your {d} cieled houses, and this house lie waste?

(d) Showing that they sought not only their necessities, but their very pleasures before God's honour.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. for you, O ye] Lit., for you, you: you, yourselves, R. V. The repetition of the pronoun is emphatic, “you are the people I mean;” or you in implied contrast to Almighty God, comp. 1 Samuel 25:24, where Abigail, anxious to appease David’s anger at the churlishness of Nabal, exclaims, “upon me, my Lord, I (am the person at fault), let this iniquity be.”

your cieled houses] Lit. your houses cieled, i.e. your houses (and they too) cieled. The adjective thus added without an article has the force of a predicate and so becomes emphatic. With the article it would form part of the subject. Comp. Psalm 143:10 : “Let Thy Spirit good (as it is, and therefore ready to help and guide the sinful and infirm), lead me,” &c. The translators in A. V., feeling the force of the adjective as a predicate, have broken the first part of the sentence into a separate proposition, “Thy Spirit is good, lead me,” &c. The Prayer-Book version is, “Let thy loving Spirit lead me,” &c.

cieled] Lit. covered or boarded. The word is used with reference to the roof of the Temple, which was high-pitched like our modern roofs, and cieled with boards within. “He covered the house with beams (rafters) and boards of cedar,” 1 Kings 6:9. It is also used of the cieling with boards of Solomon’s house of the forest of Lebanon, 1 Kings 7:3, and of some kind of covering or boarding (the passage is obscure) of his “Porch of Judgment,” 1 Kings 7:7. The practice was luxurious and magnificent even in a king (Jeremiah 22:14). Yet they who professed themselves unable to restore the House of the Lord were indulging in it in their own houses. They built costly houses for themselves, even using, it may be, to decorate them, the cedar wood which had been brought for the Temple (Ezra 3:7; Dict. of the Bible, Art. Zerubbabel), and had grown indifferent to the ruin and desolation of the House of God.Verse 4. - For you, O ye; for you, yourselves; such as ye are (see Zechariah 7:5). He appeals to their consciences. You can make yourselves comfortable; you have time and means and industry to expend on your own private interests, and can you look with indifference on the house of God lying waste? Your cieled houses; your houses, and those cieled - wainscoted and roofed with costly woods (1 Kings 7:3, 7; Jeremiah 22:14), perhaps with the very cedar provided for the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 3:7). Septuagint, ἐν οἴκοις ὑμῶν κοιλοστάθμοις, "your vaulted houses," or, as St. Cyril explains, "houses whose doorposts were elaborately adorned with emblems and devices." They had naught of the feeling of David (2 Samuel 7:2), "I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains." The reason for all this is assigned in Nahum 1:9. Nahum 1:9. "What think ye of Jehovah? He makes an end; the affliction will not arise twice. Nahum 1:10. For though they be twisted together like thorns, and as if intoxicated with their wine, they shall be devoured like dry stubble. Nahum 1:11. From thee has one come out, who meditated evil against Jehovah, who advised worthlessness." The question in Nahum 1:9 is not addressed to the enemy, viz., the Assyrians, as very many commentators suppose: "What do ye meditate against Jehovah?" For although châshabh 'el is used in Hosea 7:15 for a hostile device with regard to Jehovah, the supposition that 'el is used here for ‛al, according to a later usage of the language, is precluded by the fact that חשׁב על is actually used in this sense in Nahum 1:11. Moreover, the last clause does not suit this view of the question. The word, "the affliction will not stand up, or not rise up a second time," cannot refer to the Assyrians, or mean that the infliction of a second judgment upon Nineveh will be unnecessary, because the city will utterly fall to the ground in the first judgment, and completely vanish from the earth (Hitzig). For צרה points back to בּיום צרה, and therefore must be the calamity which has fallen upon Judah, or upon those who trust in the Lord, on the part of Nineveh or Asshur (Marck, Maurer, and Strauss). This is confirmed by Nahum 1:11 and Nahum 1:15, where this thought is definitely expressed. Consequently the question, "What think ye with regard to Jehovah?" can only be addressed to the Judaeans, and must mean, "Do ye think that Jehovah cannot or will not fulfil His threat upon Nineveh?" (Cyr., Marck, Strauss). The prophet addresses these words to the anxious minds, which were afraid of fresh invasions on the part of the Assyrians. To strengthen their confidence, he answers the question proposed, by repeating the thought expressed in Nahum 1:8. He (Jehovah) is making an end, sc. of the enemy of His people; and he gives a further reason for this in Nahum 1:10. The participial clauses עד סירים to סבוּאים are to be taken conditionally: are (or were) they even twisted like thorns. עד סירים, to thorns equals as thorns (עד is given correctly by J. H. Michaelis: eo usque ut spinas perplexitate aequent; compare Ewald, 219). The comparison of the enemy to thorns expresses "firmatum callidumque nocendi studium" (Marck), and has been well explained by Ewald thus: "crisp, crafty, and cunning; so that one would rather not go near them, or have anything to do with them" (cf. 2 Samuel 23:6 and Micah 7:4). כּסבאם סבוּאים, not "wetted like their wet" (Hitzig), nor "as it were drowned in wine, so that fire can do no more harm to them than to anything else that is wet" (Ewald); for סבא neither means to wet nor to drown, but to drink, to carouse; and סבוּא means drunken, intoxicated. סבא is strong unmixed wine (see Delitzsch on Isaiah 1:22). "Their wine" is the wine which they are accustomed to drink. The simile expresses the audacity and hardiness with which the Assyrians regarded themselves as invincible, and applies very well to the gluttony and revelry which prevailed at the Assyrian court; even if the account given by Diod. Sic. (ii. 26), that when Sardanapalus had three times defeated the enemy besieging Nineveh, in his great confidence in his own good fortune, he ordered a drinking carousal, in the midst of which the enemy, who had been made acquainted with the fact, made a fresh attack, and conquered Nineveh, rests upon a legendary dressing up of the facts. אכּלוּ, devoured by fire, is a figure signifying utter destruction; and the perfect is prophetic, denoting what will certainly take place. Like dry stubble: cf. Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 47:14, and Joel 2:5. מלא is not to be taken, as Ewald supposes (279, a), as strengthening יבשׁ, "fully dry," but is to be connected with the verb adverbially, and is simply placed at the end of the sentence for the sake of emphasis (Ges., Maurer, and Strauss). This will be the end of the Assyrians, because he who meditates evil against Jehovah has come forth out of Nineveh. In ממּך Nineveh is addressed, the representative of the imperial power of Assyria, which set itself to destroy the Israelitish kingdom of God. It might indeed be objected to this explanation of the verse, that the words in Nahum 1:12 and Nahum 1:13 are addressed to Zion or Judah, whereas Nineveh or Asshur is spoken of both in what precedes (Nahum 1:8 and Nahum 1:10) and in what follows (Nahum 1:12) in the third person. On this ground Hoelem. and Strauss refer ממּך also to Judah, and adopt this explanation: "from thee (Judah) will the enemy who has hitherto oppressed thee have gone away" (taking יצא as fut. exact., and יצא מן as in Isaiah 49:17). But this view does not suit the context. After the utter destruction of the enemy has been predicted in Nahum 1:10, we do not expect to find the statement that it will have gone away from Judah, especially as there is nothing said in what precedes about any invasion of Judah. The meditation of evil against Jehovah refers to the design of the Assyrian conquerors to destroy the kingdom of God in Israel, as the Assyrian himself declares in the blasphemous words which Isaiah puts into the mouth of Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:14-20), to show the wicked pride of the enemy. This address merely expresses the feeling cherished at all times by the power of the world towards the kingdom of God. It is in the plans devised for carrying this feeling into action that the יעץ בּליּעל, the advising of worthlessness, consists. This is the only meaning that בּליּעל has, not that of destruction.
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