Haggai 1
Barnes' Notes
Introduction to Haggai

Haggai ישׁישׁי yeshı̂yshây, the termination "-ai" is more frequently an abbreviation of the name of God which enters so largely into Hebrew names, as indeed we have חגיה chaggı̂yâh, 1 Chronicles 6:30. And this occurs not only, when the first part of the word is a verb, אחסבי 'ăchassebay, יהדי yehedday, יהמי yı̂hemay, יעני ya‛enay, יעשׂי ya‛ăs'ay, אחזי 'achezay, ישׁמרי yı̂shemeray, יריבי yerı̂ybay, יאתרי ye'ateray (as Kohler observes p. 2.), but when it is a noun, as מתני matenay, הדי hı̂dday, אמתי 'ămı̂tay, שׁלמי shalemay, צלתי tsı̂lletay (coll. מתניה mattaneyâh, and מתניהוּ mattaneyâhû), שׁמשׁי shı̂meshay, Ezra 4. פעלתי pe‛ulletay 1 Chronicles 26:5 perhaps שׁבתי shabbetay, שׁטרי shı̂ṭeray or again אתי 'ı̂ttay.) is the oldest of the three-fold band, to whom, after the captivity, the Word of God came, and by whom He consecrated the beginnings of this new condition of the chosen people.

He gave them these prophets, connecting their spiritual state after their return with that before the captivity, not leaving them wholly desolate, nor Himself without witness. He withdrew them about 100 years after, but some 420 years before Christ came, leaving His people to yearn the more for Him, of whom all the prophets spoke. Haggai himself seems to have almost finished his earthly course, before he was called to be a prophet; and in four months his office was closed. He speaks as one who had seen the first house in its glory Haggai 2:3, and so was probably among the very aged men, who were the links between the first and the last, and who laid the foundation of the house in tears Ezra 3:12. After the first two months Zechariah first prophesies in the 8th month Zechariah 1:1.

Haggai resumes at the close of the 9th month and there ends Haggai 2:10, Haggai 2:20. On the same day in the 11th month, the series of visions were given to Zechariah Zechariah 1:7.) of his office, Zechariah, in early youth, was raised up to carry on his message; yet after one brief prophecy was again silent, until the aged prophet had ended the words which God gave him. Yet in this brief space he first stirred up the people in one month to rebuild the temple , prophesied of its glory through the presence of Christ Haggai 2:1-9, yet taught that the presence of what was holy sanctified not the unholy, Haggai 2:12. and closes in Him who, when heaven and earth shall be shaken, shall abide, and they whom God hath chosen in Him. Haggai 2:20-23.)

It has been the custom of critics, in whose eyes the prophets were only poets , to speak of the style of Haggai as "tame, destitute of life and power," showing "a marked decline in" what they call "prophetic inspiration." The style of the sacred writers is, of course, conformed to their mission. prophetic descriptions of the future are but incidental to the mission of Haggai. Preachers do not speak in poetry, but set before the people their faults or their duties in vivid earnest language. Haggai sets before the people vividly their negligence and its consequences; he arrests their attention by his concise questions; at one time retorting their excuses Haggai 1:4; at another asking them abruptly, in God's name, to say why their troubles came Haggai 1:9.

Or he puts a matter of the law to the priests, that they may draw the inference, before he does it himself Haggai 2:12-13. Or he asks them, what human hope had they Haggai 2:19, before he tells them of the divine. Or he asks them (what was in their heart), "Is not this house poor?" Haggai 2:3 before he tells them of the glory in store for it. At one time he uses heaped and condensed antitheses Haggai 1:6, to set before them one thought; at another he enumerates, one by one, how the visitation of God fell upon all they had Haggai 1:11, so that there seemed to be no end to it. At another, he uses a conciseness, like John Baptist's cry, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," in his repeated Haggai 1:5-7. "Set your heart to your ways;" and then, with the same idiom, "set your heart" Haggai 2:15-18 namely, to God's ways, what He had done upon disobedience, what He would do upon obedience. He bids them work for God, and then he expresses the acceptableness of that work to God, in the three words Haggai 1:8, "And-I-will-take-pleasure in-it and-will-be-glorified." When they set themselves to obey, he encouraged them with the four words Haggai 1:13, "I with-you saith the-Lord." This conciseness must have been still more impressive in his words, as delivered . We use many words, because our words are weak. Many of us can remember how the house of lords was hushed, so hear the few low, but sententious words of the aged general and statesman. But conceive the suggestive eloquence of those words, as a whole sermon, "Set your-heart on-your-ways."

Of distant prophecies there are only two Haggai 2:6-9, Haggai 2:21-23, so that the portion to be compared with the former prophets consists but of at most 7 verses. In these the language used is of the utmost simplicity. Haggai had only one message as to the future to convey, and he enforced it by the repeated use of the same word , that temporal things should be shaken, the eternal should remain, as Paul sums it up Hebrews 12:26. He, the long-yearned for, the chosen of God, the signet on His hand, should come; God would fill that house, so poor in their eyes, with glory, and there would He give peace. Haggai had an all-containing but very simple message to give from God. Any ornament of diction would but have impaired and obscured its meaning. The two or three slight idioms, noticed by one after another, are, though slight, forcible.

The office of Haggai was mainly to bring about one definite end, which God, who raised him up and inspired him, accomplished by him. It is in the light of this great accomplishment of the work entrusted to him on the verge of man's earthly course, that his power and energy are to be estimated. The words which are preserved in his book are doubtless (as indeed was the case as to most of the prophets) the representatives and embodiment of many like words, by which, during his short office, he roused the people from their dejection indifference and irreligious apathy, to the restoration of the public worship of God in the essentials of the preparatory dispensation.

Great lukewarmness had been shown in the return. The few looked mournfully to the religious center of Israel, the ruined temple, the cessation of the daily sacrifice, and, like Daniel Dan 9:20, "confessed" their "sin and the sin of their people Israel, and presented their supplication before the Lord their God for the holy mountain of their God." The most part appear, as now, to have been taken up with their material prosperity, and, at best, to have become injured to the cessation of their symbolic worship, connected, as it was, with the declaration of the forgiveness of their sins. Then too, God connected His declaration of pardon with certain outward acts: they became indifferent to the cessation of those acts, because few returned. The indifference was even remarkable among those, most connected with the altar. Of the 24 1 Chronicles 24:3-19. orders of priests, only 16, 4 orders Ezra 2:36-39. returned; of the Levites, only 74 individuals Ezra 2:40; while of those assigned to help them, the Nethinim and the children of Solomon's servants, there were 392 Ezra 2:58.

This coldness continued at the return of Ezra. The edict of Artaxerxes Ezra 7:13-14, as suggested by Ezra, was more pious than those appointed to the service of God. In the first instance, no Levite answered to the invitation Ezra 8:15; on the special urgency and message of Ezra Ezr 8:18-19, "by the good hand of God upon us they brought us a man of understanding," of the sons of Levi; some 3 or 4 chief Levites; their sons and brethren; in all, 38; but of the Nethinim, nearly six times as many, 220 Ezra 8:20. These who thought more of temporal prosperity than of their high spiritual nobility and destination, had flourished doubtless in that exile as they have in their present homelessness, as "wanderers among the nations." Haman calculated apparently on being able to "pay out" of their spoils "ten thousand talents of silver (Esther 3:9. Ahasuerus apparently, in acceding to Haman's proposal, made over to him the lives and property of the Jews. The silver is given unto thee the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee. Esther 3:11). The Jew's property, was confiscated with their lives. On the contrary, it was noticed, that the Jews, when permitted to defend their lives, did not lay their hands on the prey, which, by the king's decree, was granted to them, with authority to take the lives of those who should assault them. Esther 8:11; Esther 9:10, Esther 9:15-16.) some 300,000,000 British pounds, two-thirds of the annual revenue of the Persian Empire "into the king's treasuries."

The numbers who had returned with Zerubbabel had been (as had been foretold of all restorations) only "a remnant." There were 42,360 free men, with 7,337 male or female slaves Ezra 2:64-65; Nehemiah 7:66-67. In the time of Augustus, it was no uncommon thing for a person to have 200 slaves (Hor. Sat. i. 9. 11) it is said that very many Romans possessed 10,000 or 20,000 slaves. Athenaeus vi. p. 272). The whole population which returned was not more than 212,000, free men and women and children. The proportion of slaves is about 112, since in their case adults of both sexes were counted. The enumeration is minute, giving the number of their horses, mules, camels, asses. . The chief of the fathers however were not poor, since (though unspeakably short of the wealth, won by David and consecrated to the future temple) they Ezra 2:68-69 offered freely for the house of God, to set it up in its place, a sum about 117,100 British pounds of our money. They had, beside, a grant from Cyrus, which he intended to cover the expenses of the building, the height and breadth whereof were determined by royal edict Ezra 4:3.

The monarch, however, of an eastern empire had, in proportion to its size, little power over his subordinates or the governors of the provinces, except by their recall or execution, when their oppressions or peculations notably exceeded bounds. The returned colony, from the first, were in fear of the nations, "the peoples of those countries" Ezra 3:3, their old enemies probably; and the first service," the altar to offer burnt-offerings thereon," was probably a service of fear rather than of love, as it is said Ezra 3:3, "they set up the altar upon its bases, for it was in fear upon them from the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt-offerings thereon unto the Lord." They hoped apparently to win the favor of God, that He might, as of old, protect them against their enemies. However, the work was carried on Ezra 3:7 "according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia" and the foundations of the temple were laid amidst mixed joy at the carrying on of the work thus far, and sorrow at its poverty, compared to the first temple Ezra 3:11-13.

The hostility of the Samaritans discouraged them. Mixed as the religion of the Samaritans was - its better element being the corrupt religion of the ten tribes, its worse the idolatries of the various nations, brought there in the reign of Esarhaddon - the returned Jews could not accept their offer to join in their worship, without the certainty of admitting, with them, the idolatries, for which they had been punished so severely. For the Samaritans pleaded the identity of the two religions Ezra 4:2, "Let us build with you, for we serve your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto Him since the days of Esarhaddon which brought us up hither." But in fact this mixed worship, in which 2 Kings 17:33 they feared the Lord and served their own gods, came to this, that 2 Kings 17:34 "they feared not the Lord, neither did they after the law and commandment which the Lord commanded the children of Jacob." For God claims the undivided allegiance of His creatures "these 2 Kings 17:41, feared the Lord and served their graven images, both their children and their children's children: as did their fathers, so do they to this day." But this worship included some of the most cruel abominations of pagandom, the sacrifice of their children to their gods 2 Kings 17:31.

The Samaritans, thus rejected, first themselves harassed the Jews in building, apparently by petty violence, as they did afterward in the rebuilding of the walls by Nehemiah "The people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and wore them out in building." This failing, they Ezra 4:5 "hired counselors" (doubtless at the Persian court), to "frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, until the reign of Darius king of Persia." The object of the intrigues was probably to intercept the supplies, which Cyrus had engaged to bestow, which could readily be effected in an eastern court without any change of purpose or any cognizance of Cyrus.

In the next reign of Ahashverosh (i. e., Khshwershe, a title of honor of Cambyses) Ezra 4:6 they wrote accusations against the Jews, seemingly without any further effect, since none is mentioned. Perhaps Cambyses, in his expedition to Egypt, knew more of the Jews, than the Samaritans thought, or he may have shrunk from changing his father's decree, contrary to the fundamental principles of Persism, not to alter any decree, which the sovereign (acting, as he was assumed to do, under the influence of Ormuzd) had written. Pseudo-Smerdis (who doubtless took the title of honor, Artachshatr) may, as an impostor, have well been ignorant of Cyrus' decree, to which no allusion is made Ezra 4:7. From him the Samaritans, through Rehum the chancellor, obtained a decree prohibiting, until further notice, the rebuilding of the city. The accusers had overreached themselves, for the ground of their accusation was, the former rebellions of the city Ezra 4:12-13, Ezra 4:15-16; the prohibition accordingly extended only to the city Ezra 4:19, Ezra 4:21, not to the temple.

However, having obtained the decree, they were not scrupulous about its application, and "made" the Jews "to cease Ezra 4:23 by arm and power," the governor of the Jews being apparently unable, the governor of the cis-Euphratensian provinces being unwilling, to help. As this, however, was, in fact, a perversion of the decree, the Jews were left free to build, and in the second year of Darius Hystaspis Ezra 5:1-2, "Haggai, and then Zechariah, prophesied in the name of the God of Israel" to Zerubbabel, the native governor, and Joshua the high priest, "and the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem; and they began to build the house of God in Jerusalem." Force was no longer used. Those engaged in building appealed to the edict of Cyrus; the edict was found at Ecbatana Ezra 6:2, and the supplies which Cyrus had promised, were again ordered. The difficulty was at the commencement. The people had been cowed perhaps at first by the violence of Rehum and his companions; but they had acquiesced readily in the illegal prohibition, and had Haggai 1:9 run each to his own house, some of them to their Haggai 1:4 "ceiled houses."

All, employers or employed, were busy on their husbandry. But nothing flourished. The laborers' wages disappeared, as soon as gained Haggai 1:6. East and west wind alike brought disease to their grain; both, as threatened upon disobedience in the law Deuteronomy 28:22. The east wind scorched and dried it up ; the warm west wind turned the ears yellow and barren; the hail smote the vines, so that when the unfilled and mutilated clusters were pressed out, only two-fifths of the hoped-for produce was yielded; and of the grain, only one half Haggai 2:16.

In the midst of this, God raised up an earnest preacher of repentance. Haggai was taught, not to promise anything at the first, but to set before them, what they had been doing, and what was its result Haggai 2:5-11. He sets it before them in detail; tells them that God had so ordered it for their neglect of His service, and bids them to amend. He bids them quit their accustomed ways; "go up into the mountain; bring wood; build the house." Conceive in Christian England, after some potato disease, or foot-and-mouth-disease (in Scriptural language "a murrain among the cattle"), a preacher arising and bidding them, consider your ways, and as the remedy, not to look to any human means, but to do something, which would please Almighty God; and not preaching only but effecting what he preached. Yet such was Haggai. He stood among his people, his existence a witness of the truth of what he said; himself one, who had lived among the outward splendors of the former temple; a contemporary of those, who said Jeremiah 7:4, "the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these;" who had held it to be impossible that Judah should be carried captive; who had prophesied the restoration of the vessels of God Jeremiah 27:16; Jeremiah 28:3, which had been carried away, not, as God foretold, after the captivity, but as an earnest that the fuller captivity should not be Jeremiah 28:2; yet who had himself, according to the prophecies of the prophets of those days, been carried into captivity, and was now a part of that restoration which God had promised.

He stood among them "in gray-haired might," bade them do, what he bade them, in the name of God, to do; and they did it. When they had set about the work, he assured them of the presence of God with them Haggai 1:13. A month later, when they were seemingly discouraged at its poorness, he promised them in God's name, that its glory would be greater than that of Solomon's Haggai 2:3-9. Three days after, in contrast with the visitations up to that time, while there was as yet no token of any change, he promised them in the name of God Haggai 2:19, "From this day will I bless you."

He himself apparently saw only the commencement of the work, for his prophecies lay within the second year of Darius and the temple was not completed until the sixth Ezra 6:15. Even the favorable rescript of Darius must have arrived after his last prophecy, since it was elicited by the inquiry of the governor, consequent upon the commenced rebuilding Ezra 5:3, only three months before his office closed Haggai 1:15; Haggai 2:10, Haggai 2:20.

While this restoration of the public worship of God in its intregrity was his main office, yet he also taught by parable Haggai 2:10-15 that the presence of what was outwardly holy did not, in itself, hallow those, among whom it was; but was itself unhallowed by inward unholiness.

Standing, too, amid the small handful of returned exiles, not, altogether, more than the inhabitants of Sheffield, he foretold, in simple all-comprehending words, that central gift of the Gospel Haggai 2:9, "In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord." So had David, the sons of Korah, Micah, Isaiah, Ezekiel prophesied Psalm 72:3-7; Psalm 85:8, Psalm 85:10; Micah 5:5; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 26:12; Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 54:10, Isaiah 54:13; Isaiah 57:19; Isaiah 60:17; Isaiah 66:12; Ezekiel 34:25; Ezekiel 37:26, but the peace was to come, not then, but in the days of the Messiah. Other times had come, in which the false prophets had said Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11; Jeremiah 14:13, "Peace, peace, when there was no peace;" when God had taken away His peace from Jeremiah 16:5; "this people." And now, when the chastisements were fulfilled, when the land lay desolate, when every house of Jerusalem lay burned with fire 2 Chronicles 36:19 and the "blackness of ashes" alone "marked where they stood;" when the walls were broken down so that, even when leave was given to rebuild them, it seemed to their enemies a vain labor to Nehemiah 4:2; "revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish which were burned;" when Nehemiah 2:3 "the place of their fathers' sepulchres lay waste, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire;" when, for their sakes, Zion was Micah 3:12 "plowed as a field" and "Jerusalem was become heaps" - let any one picture to himself the silver-haired prophet standing, at first, alone, rebuking the people, first through their governor and the high priest, then the collected multitude, in words, forceful from their simplicity, and obeyed! And then let them think whether anything of human or even divine eloquence was lacking, when the words flew straight like arrows to the heart, and roused the people to do at once, amid every obstacle, amid every down-heartedness or outward poverty, that for which God sent them. The outward ornament of words would have been misplaced, when the object was to bid a downhearted people, in the name of God, to do a definite work. Haggai sets before his people cause and effect; that they denied to God what was His, and that God denied to them what was His to give or to withhold. His sermon was, in His words whom he foretold; "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." He spoke in the name of God, and was obeyed.

"The Holy Spirit, who spake by the mouth of the prophets, willed that he by a foreboding name should be called Haggai, i. e., 'festive,' according to the subject whereof He should speak by his mouth. Yet was there not another festiveness in the prophet's heart, than the joy which he had or could have with the people, from the rebuilding of that temple made with hands, again to be defiled and burned with fire irrecoverably? Be it that the rebuilding of that temple, which he saw before him, was a matter of great festive joy; yet not in or for itself, but for Him, the festive joy of saints and angels and men, Christ; because when the temple should be rebuilt, the walls also of the city should be rebuilt and the city again inhabited and the people be united in one, of whom Christ should be born, fulfilling the truth of the promise made to Abraham and David and confirmed by an oath. So then we, by aid of the Holy Spirit, so enter upon what Haggai here speaketh, as not doubting that he altogether aimeth at Christ. And so may we in some sort be called or be Haggais, i. e., 'festive,' by contemplating that same, which because he should contemplate, he was, by a divine foreboding, called Haggai."

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,
In the second year of Darius - , i. e., Hystaspis. The very first word of prophecy after the captivity betokens that they were restored, not yet as before, yet so, as to be hereafter, more than before. The earthly type, by God's appointment, was fading away, that the heavenly truth might dawn. The earthly king was withdrawn, to make way for the heavenly. God had said of Jeconiah Jeremiah 22:30, "No man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Israel:" and so now prophecy begins to be dated by the years of a foreign earthly ruler, as in the Baptism of the Lord Himself Luke 3:1. Yet God gives back in mercy more than He withdraws in chastisement. The earthly rule is suspended, that people might look out more longingly for the heavenly.

In the sixth month - They counted by their own months, beginning with Nisan, the first of the ecclesiastical year (which was still used for holy purposes and in sacred history), although, having no more any kings, they dated their years by those of the empire, to which they were subject (See Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 7:1) in the sixth month, part of our July and August, their harvest was past, and the dearth, which they, doubtless ascribed (as we do) to the seasons, and which Haggai pointed out to be a judgment from God, had set in for this year also. The months being lunar, the first day of the month was the festival of the new moon, a popular feast Proverbs 7:20 which their forefathers had kept Isaiah 1:13-14, while they neglected the weightier matters of the law, and which the religious in Israel had kept, even while separated from the worship at Jerusalem (2 Kings 4:23; add Amos 8:5; Hosea 2:11). In its very first day, when the grief for the barren year was yet fresh, Haggai was stirred to exhort them to consider their way; a pattern for Christian preachers, to bring home to people's souls the meaning of God's judgments. God directs the very day to be noted, in which He called the people anew to build His temple, both to show the readiness of their obedience, and a precedent to us to keep in memory days and seasons, in which He stirs our souls to build more diligently His spiritual temple in our souls .

By the hand of Haggai - God does almost everything which He does for a person through the hands of people. He commits His words and works for people into the hands of human beings as His stewards, to dispense faithfully to His household. Luke 12:42. Hence, He speaks so often of the law, which He commanded "by the hand of Moses;" but also as to other prophets, Nathan 2 Samuel 12:25, Ahijal, 1 Kings 12:15; 1 Kings 14:16; 2 Chronicles 10:15. Jehu 1 Kings 16:7, Jonah 2 Kings Jonah 14:25, Isaiah Isa 20:2, Jeremiah Jer 37:2, and the prophets generally. Hosea 7:20; 2 Chronicles 29:25 the very prophets of God, although gifted with a Divine Spirit, still were willing and conscious instruments in speaking His words.

Unto Zerubbabel - (so called from being born in Babylon) "the son of Sheatiel." By this genealogy Zerubbabel is known in the history of the return from the captivity in Ezra and Nehemiah Ezr 3:2, Ezra 3:8; Ezra 5:2; Nehemiah 12:1. God does not say by Jeremiah, that Jeconiah should have no children, but that he should in his lifetime be childless, as it is said of those married to the uncle's or brother's widow Leviticus 20:20-21, "they shall die childless." Jeremiah rather implies that he should have children, but that they should die untimely before him. For he calls Jeconiah Jeremiah 22:30, "a man who shall not prosper in his days; for there shall not prosper a man of his seed, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Israel." He should die (as the word means) "bared" of all, alone and desolate. The own father of Shealtiel appears to have been Neri Luke 3:27, of the line of Nathan son of David; not, of the line of the kings of Judah. Neri married, one must suppose, a daughter of Assir, son of Jeconiah 1 Chronicles 3:17-19 whose grandson Shealtiel was; and Zerubbabel was the own son of Pedaiah, the brother of Shealtiel, as whose son he was in the legal genealogy inscribed, according to the law as to those who die childless Deuteronomy 23:5-10, or as having been adopted by Shealtiel being himself childless, as Moses was called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh Exodus 2:10. So broken was the line of the unhappy Jehoiachin, two thirds of whose own life was passed in the prison Jeremiah 52:31, into which Nebuchadnezzar did cast him.

Governor of Judah - The foreign name betokens that the civil rule was now held from a foreign power, although Cyrus showed the Jews the kindness of placing one of themselves, of royal extraction also, as his deputy over them.

The lineage of David is still in authority, connecting the present with the past, but the earthly kingdom had faded away. Under the name "Sheshbazzar" Zerubbabel is spoken of both as the "prince" and the "governor" Ezra 5:14, of Judah. With him is joined "Joshuah the son of Josedech, the high priest," whose father went into captivity 1 Chronicles 6:15, when his grandfather Seraiah was slain by Nebuchadnezzar 2 Kings 25:18-21. The priestly line is also preserved. Haggai addresses these two, the one of the royal, the other of the priestly, line, as jointly responsible for the negligence of the people; he addresses the people only through them. Together, they are types of Him, the true King and true priest, Christ Jesus, who by the resurrection raised again the true temple, His Body, after it had been destroyed .

Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built.
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say - Not Zerubbabel or Joshua, but "this people." He says not, "My people," but reproachfully "this people," as, in acts, disowning Him, and so deserving to be disowned by Him. "The time is not come," literally "It is not time to come, time for the house of the Lord to be built" . They might yet sit still; the time for them "to come" was not yet, for not yet was the "time for the house of the Lord to be built." Why it was not time, they did not say. The government did not help them; the original grant by Cyrus Ezra 3:7 was exhausted; the Samaritans hindered them, because they would not own them, (amid their mishmash of worship, "worshiping," our Lord tells them John 4:22, "they know not what"), as worshipers of the same God. It was a bold excuse, if they said, that the 70 years during which the temple was to lie waste, were not yet ended.

The time had long since come, when, 16 years before, Cyrus had given command that the house of God should be built. The prohibition to build, under Artaxerxes or Pseudo-Smerdis, applied directly to the city and its walls, not to the temple, except so far as the temple itself, from its position, might be capable of being used as a fort, as it was in the last siege of, Jerusalem. Yet in itself a building of the size of the temple, apart from outer buildings, could scarcely so be used. The prohibition did not hinder the building of stately private houses, as appears from Haggai's rebuke. The hindrances also, whatever they were, had not begun with that decree. The death of Pseudo-Smerdis had now, for a year, set them free, if had they had any zeal for the glory and service of God. Otherwise, Haggai would not blamed them. God, knowing that He would bend the heart of Darius, as He had that of Cyrus, requires the house to be built without the king's decree. It was built in faith, that God would bring through what He had enjoined, although outward things were as adverse now as before. And what He commanded He prospered Ezra 5-6.

There was indeed a second fulfillment of 70 years, from the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar 586 b.c., to its consecration in the 6th year of Darius 516 b.c. But this was through the willfulness of man, prolonging the desolation decreed by God, and Jeremiah's prophecy relates to the people not to the temple.

"The prophet addresses his discourse to the chiefs (in Church and state) and yet accuses directly, not their listlessness but that of the people, in order both to honor them before the people and to teach that their sins are to be blamed privately not publicly, lest their authority should be injured, and the people incited to rebel against them; and also to shew that this fault was directly that of the people, whom he reproves before their princes, that, being openly convicted before them, it might be ashamed, repent, and obey God; but that indirectly this fault touched the chiefs themselves, whose office it was to urge the people to this work of God" . "For seldom is the prince free from the guilt of his subjects, as either assenting to, or winking at them, or not coercing them, though able."

Since also Christians are the temple of God, all this prophecy of Haggai is applicable to them . "When thou seest one who has lapsed thinking and preparing to build through chastity the temple which he had before destroyed through passion, and yet delaying day by day, say to him, 'Truly thou also art of the people of the captivity, and sayest, The time is not yet come for building the house of the Lord.' Whoso has once settled to restore the temple of God, to him every time is suited for building, and the prince, Satan, cannot hinder, nor, the enemies around. As soon as being thyself converted, thou callest upon the name of the Lord, He will say, "Behold Me" . "To him who willeth to do right, the time is always present; the good and right-minded have power to fulfill what is to the glory of God, in every time and place."

Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
And the word of the Lord came - o "Before, he prophesied nothing, but only recited the saying of the people; now he refutes it in his prophecy, and repeats, again and again, that he says this not of himself, but from the mind and mouth of God." It is characteristic of Haggai to inculcate thus frequently, that his words are not his own, but the words of God. Yet "the prophets, both in their threats and prophecies, repeat again and again, "Thus saith the Lord," teaching us, how we should prize the word of God, hang upon it, have it ever in our mouth, reverence, ruminate on, utter, praise it, make it our continual delight."

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

Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
And now, thus saith the Lord of hosts; "Consider," (literally "set your heart upon) your ways," what they had been doing, what they were doing, and what those doings had led to, and would lead to. This is ever present to the mind of the prophets, as speaking God's words, that our acts are not only "ways" in which we go, each day of life being a continuance of the day before; but that they are ways which lead, somewhere in God's Providence and His justice; to some end of the "way," good or bad. So God says by Jeremiah Jer 21:8. "I set before you the way of life and the way of death;" and David Psalm 16:11, "Thou wilt show me the path of life," where it follows, "In Thy presence is the fullness of joy and at Thy Right Hand there are pleasures forevermore;" and Solomon Proverbs 6:23, "Reproofs of instruction are the way of life;" and, he is in Proverbs 10:17, "the way of life who keepeth instruction; and he who forsaketh rebuke, erreth;" and Proverbs 15:24, "The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath;" and of the adulterous woman, Proverbs 7:27. "Her house are the ways of hell, going down to the chambers of death" and Proverbs 5:5-6, "her feet go down unto death; her steps take hold on hell; lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life." Again, Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, and the end thereof are the ways of death;" and contrariwise Proverbs 4:18, "The path of the righteous is a shining light, shining more and more until the mid-day" Proverbs 2:13. "The ways of darkness" are the ways which end in darkness; and when Isaiah says Isaiah 59:8, "The way of peace hast thou not known," he adds, "whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace." They who choose not peace for their way, shall not find peace in and for their end.

On these your ways, Haggai says, "set your hearts," not thinking of them lightly, nor giving a passing thought to them, but fixing your minds upon them; as God says to Satan Job 1:8, "Hast thou set thy heart on My servant Job?" and God is said to set His eye or His face upon man for good Jeremiah 24:6; or for evil Jeremiah 21:10, He speaks also, not of setting the mind, applying the understanding, giving the thoughts, but of "setting the heart," as the seat of the affections. It is not a dry weighing of the temporal results of their ways, but a loving dwelling upon them, for repentance without love is but the gnawing of remorse.

Set your heart on your ways; - i. e., your affections, thoughts, works, so as to be circumspect in all things; as the apostle Paul says 1 Timothy 5:21, "Do nothing without forethought," i. e., without previous judgment of reason; and Solomon Proverbs 4:25, "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee;" and the son of Sirach, "Son, do nothing without counsel and when thou hast done it thou wilt not repent." For since, according to a probable proposition, nothing in human acts is indifferent, i. e., involving neither good nor ill deserts, they who do not thus set their hearts upon their ways, do they not daily incur almost countless sins, in thought, word, desire, deed, yea and by omission of duties? Such are all fearless persons who heed not to fulfill what is written Proverbs 4:23, 'Keep your heart with all watchfulness. '"

"He "sows much" to his own heart, but "brings in little," who by reading and hearing knows much of the heavenly commands, but by negligence in deeds bears little fruit. "He eats and is not satisfied," who, hearing the words of God, coveteth the gains or glory of the world. Well is he said not to be "satisfied," who eateth one thing, hungereth after another. He drinks and is not inebriated, who inclineth his ear to the voice of preaching, but changeth not his mind. For through inebriation the mind of those who drink is changed. He then who is devoted to the knowledge of God's word, yet still desireth to gain the things of the world, drinks and is not inebriated. For were he inebriated, no doubt he would have changed his mind and no longer seek earthly things, or love the vain and passing things which he had loved. For the Psalmist says of the elect Psalm 36:8, "they shall be inebriated with the richness of Thy house," because they shall be filled with such love of Almighty God, that, their mind being changed, they seem to be strangers to themselves, fulfilling what is written Matthew 16:24, 'If any will come after Me, let him deny himself. '"

Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
Ye have sown much - The prophet expresses the habitualness of these visitations by a vivid present. He marks no time and so expresses the more vividly that it was at all times. It is one continually present evil. "Ye have sown much and there is a bringing in little; there is eating and not to satisfy; there is drinking and not to exhilarate; there is clothing and not to be warm It is not for the one or the other years, as, since the first year of Darius Hystaspis; it is one continued visitation, coordinate with one continued negligence. As long as the sin lasted, so long the punishment. The visitation itself was twofold; impoverished harvests, so as to supply less sustenance; and various indisposition of the frame, so that what would, by God's appointment in nature, satisfy, gladden, warm, failed of its effect. "And he that laboreth for hire, gaineth himself hire into a bag full of holes" (literally "perforated.") The labor pictured is not only fruitless, but wearisome and vexing. There is a seeming result of all the labor, something to allure hopes; but immediately it is gone. The pagan assigned a like baffling of hope as one of the punishments of hell , "Better and wiser to seek to be blessed by God, Who bestoweth on us all things. And this will readily come to those who choose to be of the same mind with Him and prefer what is for His glory to their own. For so saith the Saviour Himself to us Matthew 6:33, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

"He loses good deeds by evil acts, who takes account of his good works, which he hits before his eyes, and forgets the faults which creep in between; or who, after what is good, returns to what is vain and evil" . "Money is seen in the pierced bag, when it is cast in, but when it is lost, it is not seen. They then who look how much they give, but do not weigh how much they gain wrongly, cast their rewards into a pierced bag. Looking to the Hope of their confidence they bring them together; not looking, they lose them."

"They lose the fruit of their labor, by not persevering to the end, or by seeking human praise, or by vain glory within, not keeping spiritual riches under the guardianship of humility. Such are vain and unprofitable men, of whom the Saviour saith, Matthew 6:2. 'Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. '"

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
Go up into the mountain - Not Mount Lebanon, from where the cedars had been brought for the first temple; from where also Zerubbabel and Joshua had procured some out of Cyrus' grant Ezra 3:7, at the first return from the captivity. They were not required to buy, expend, but simply to give their own labor. They were themselves to "go up to the mountain," i. e., the mountainous country where the trees grew, "and bring" them. So, in order to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, Ezra made a proclamation Nehemiah 8:15 "in all their cities and in Jerusalem, go ye up to the mountain and bring leafy branches of vines, olives, myrtles, palms." The palms, anyhow, were timber. God required not goodly stones, such as had been already used, and such as hereafter, in the temple which was built, were the admiration even of disciples of Jesus Matthew 24:1, but which were, for the wickedness of those who rejected their Saviour, "not to be left, one stone upon another." He required not costly gifts, but the heart. The neglect to build the temple was neglect of Himself, who ought to be worshiped there. His worship sanctified the offering; offerings were acceptable, only if made with a free heart.

And I will have pleasure in it - God, who has declared that He has no Micah 6:7 "pleasure in thousands of rams, ten thousands of rivers of oil," had delight in Psalm 147:11 "them that feared Him," that are "upright in their way," Proverbs 11:20 that "deal truly" Proverbs 12:22 in the "prayer" of the "upright" Proverbs 15:8, and so in the temple too, when it should be built to His glory.

And will be glorified - o God is glorified in man, when man serves Him; in Himself, when He manifests aught of His greatness; in His great doings to His people Isaiah 26:15; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 60:21; Isaiah 61:3, as also in the chastisement of those who disobey Him Exodus 14:4; Ezekiel 28:22. God allows that glory, which shines ineffably throughout His creation, to be obscured here through man's disobedience, to shine forth anew on his renewed obedience. The glory of God, as it is the end of the creation, so is it His creature's supreme bliss. When God is really glorified, then can He show forth His glory, by His grace and acceptance. (Augustine, Serm. 380, n. 6.) "The glory of God is our glory. The more sweetly God is glorified, the more it profits us:" yet not our profit, but the glory of God is itself our end; so the prophet closes in that which is our end, "God will be glorified."

"Good then and well-pleasing to God is zeal in fulfilling whatever may appear necessary for the good condition of the Church and its building-up, collecting the most useful materials, the spiritual principles in inspired Scripture, whereby he may secure and ground the conception of God, and may shew that the way of the Incarnation was well-ordered, and may collect what pertains to accurate knowledge of spiritual erudition and moral goodness. Nay, each of us may be thought of, as the temple and house of God. For Christ "dwelleth in us" by the Spirit, and we are "temples of the living God," according to the Scripture 2 Corinthians 6:16. Let each then build up his own heart by right faith, having the Saviour as the "precious foundation." And let him add thereto other materials, obedience, readiness for anything, courage, endurance, continence. "So being framed together by that which every joint supplieth, shall we become a holy temple, a habitation of God through the Spirit" Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 2:21-22. But those who are slow to faith, or who believe but are sluggish in shaking off passions and sins and worldly pleasure, thereby cry out in a manner, The time is not come to build the house of the Lord."

Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.
Ye looked - , literally "a looking;" as though he said, it has all been one looking, "for much," for increase, the result of all sowing, in the way of nature: "and behold it came to little," i. e., less than was sown; as Isaiah denounced to them of old by God's word, Isaiah 5:10. "the seed of a homer shall yield an ephah," i. e., one tenth of what was sown. "And ye brought it home, and I blew upon it," so as to disperse it, as, not the wheat, but the chaff is blown before the wind. This, in whatever way it came to pass, was a further chastisement of God. The little seed which they brought in lessened through decay or waste. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. God asks by his prophet, what He asks in the awakened conscience Psalm 39:11. "God with rebukes chastens man for sin." Conscience, when alive, confesses for "what" sin; or it asks itself, if memory does not supply the special sin. Unawakened, it complains about the excess of rain, the drought, the blight, the mildew, and asks, not itself, why, in God's Providence, these inflictions came in these years? They felt doubtless the sterility in contrast with the exceeding prolificalness of Babylonia, as they contrasted the "light bread," Numbers 21:5. the manna, with Numbers 11:5. the plenteousness of Egypt. They ascribed probably their meagre crops (as we mostly do) to mere natural causes, perhaps to the long neglect of the land during the captivity. God forces the question upon their consciences, in that Haggai asks it in His Name, in whose hands all powers stand, "saith the Lord of host." They have not to talk it over among themselves, but to answer Almighty God, "why?" That "why?" strikes into the inmost depths of conscience!

Because of My house which is waste, and ye run - literally, "are running," all the while, "each to his own house" They were absorbed in their material interests, and had no time for those of God. When the question was of God's house, they stir not from the spot; when it is of their own concerns, they run. Our Lord says, Matthew 6:33. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Man reverses this, seeks his own things first, and God withholds His blessing.

"This comes true of those who prefer their own conveniences to God's honor, who do not thoroughly uproot self-love, whose penitence and devotion are shewn to be unstable, for on a slight temptation they are overcome. Such are they who are bold, self-pleasing, wise and great in their own eyes, who do not ground their conversation on true and solid humility."

(Cyr.) "To those who are slow to fulfill what is for the glory of God, and the things whereby His house, the Church, is firmly stayed, neither the heavenly dew cometh, which enricheth hearts and minds, nor the fruitfulness of the earth; i. e., right action; not food nor wine nor use of oil. But they will be ever strengthless and joyless, unenriched by spiritual oil, and remain without taste or participation of the blessing through Christ."

Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.
Therefore, for you, - on your account; (As in Psalm 44:43.) for your sins, (Jon.) He points out the moral cause of the drought, whereas men think of this or that cause of the variations of the seasons, and we, e. g., take into our mouths Scriptural words, as "murrain of cattle," and the like, and think of nothing less than why it was sent, or who sent it. Haggai directs the mind to the higher Cause, that as they withheld their service from God, so, on their account and by His will, His creatures withheld their service from them.

And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.
And I called for a drought upon the land - God called to the people and they would not hear. It is His ever-repeated complaint to them. "I called unto you, and ye would not hear." He called to His inanimate creatures to punish them, and "they" obeyed. So Elisha tells the woman, whose son he had restored to life, 2 Kings 8:1. "The Lord hath called to the famine, and it shall also come to the land seven years."

And upon men, - in that the drought was oppressive to man. The prophet may also allude to the other meaning of the word, "waste," "desolation." They had left the house of the Lord "waste," therefore God called for waste, desolation, upon them.

Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.
Then Zerubbabel, and all the remnant of the people - , not, "the rest of people" but "the remnant," those who remained over from the captivity, the fragment of the two tribes, which returned to their own land, "hearkened unto the voice of the Lord." This was the beginning of a conversion. In this one thing they began to do, what, all along, in their history, and most in their decay before the captivity they refused to do - obey God's word. So God sums up their history, by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 22:21. "I spake unto thee in thy prosperity, thou saidst, I will not hear. This is thy way from thy youth, that thou hearkenedst not unto My voice." Zephaniah 3:2 still more briefly , "she hearkened not unto (any) voice." Now in reference, it seems, to that account of their disobedience, Haggai says, using the self-same formula , "they hearkened unto the voice of the Lord, "according to the words of Haggai." They obeyed, not vaguely, or partly, but exactly, "according to the words" which the messenger of God spake.

And they feared the Lord - o "Certainly the presence of the Divine Majesty is to be teared with great reverence." "The fear of punishment at times transports the mind to what is better, and the infliction of sorrows harmonizes the mind to the fear of God; and that of the Proverbs comes true, Proverbs 13:13. "He that feareth the Lord shall be recompensed," and Proverbs 19:23 "the fear of the Lord tendeth to life;" and Wisdom (Ecclesiasticus 1:11). "The fear of the Lord is honor and glory, and Proverbs 19:12 the fear of the Lord shall rejoice the heart, and giveth joy and gladness and a long life." See how gently and beseemingly God smites us."

"See how the lovingkindness of God immediately goes along with all changes for the better. For Almighty God changes along with those who will to repent, and promises that He will be with them; which what can equal? For when God is with us, all harm will depart from us, all good come in to us."

Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.
And Haggai, the Lord's messenger - Malachi, whose own name was framed to express that he was "the Lord's messenger," and Haggai alone use the title, as the title of a prophet; perhaps as forerunners of the great prophet whom Malachi announced. Malachi also speaks of the priest, as Malachi 2:7 "the messenger of the Lord of hosts," and prophesies of John Baptist as Malachi 3:1 "the messenger" of the Lord, who should go before His face. Haggai, as he throughout repeats that his words were God's words, frames a new word to express, in the language of the New Testament; 2 Corinthians 5:20 that he had an embassy from God; "in the Lord's message."

I am with you - All the needs and longings of the creature are summed up in those two words, "I with you." "Who art Thou and who am I? Thou, He Who Is; I, he who am not;" nothing, yea worse than nothing. Yet "if Romans 8:31, God be for us," Paul asks, "who can be against us?" Our blessed Lord's parting promise to the Apostles, and in them to the Church, was, Matthew 28:20. "Lo I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." The all-containing assurance goes beyond any particular promise of aid, as , "I will help you, and will protect you, so that your building shall have its completion." This is one fruit of it , "since I am in the midst of you, no one shall be able to hinder your building." But, more widely, the words bespeak "His" presence in love, who knows all our needs, and is Almighty to support and save us in all. So David says Psalm 23:4, "when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me:" and God says by another Psalm 91:15, I will be "with him in trouble," and by Isaiah Isa 43:2, "When thou passest through the waters," I will be "with thee."

And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,
And the Lord stirred up the spirit - The words are used of any strong impulse from God to fulfill His will, whether in those who execute His will unknowingly as Pul 1 Chronicles 5:26, to carry off the trans-Jordanic tribes, or the Philistines and Arabians against Jehoram, 2 Chronicles 21:16. or the Medes against Babylon Jeremiah 51:11, or knowingly, as of Cyrus to restore God's people and rebuild the temple Ezra 1:1, or of the people themselves to return Ezra 1:5 , "The spirit of Zerubbabel and the spirit of Joshua were stirred, that the government and priesthood may build the temple of God: the spirit of the people too, which before was asleep in them; not the body, not the soul, but the spirit. which knoweth best how to build the temple of God." "The Holy Spirit is stirred up in us, that we should enter the house of the Lord, and do the works of the Lord."

"Again, observe that they did not set themselves to choose to do what should please God, before He was with them and stirred up their spirit. We shall know hence also, that although one choose zealously to do good and be in earnest therein, yet he will accomplish nothing, unless God be with him, raising him up to dare, and sharpening him to endure, and removing all torpor. For so the wondrous Paul says of those entrusted with the divine preaching 1 Corinthians 15:11, I labored more abundantly than they all, yet added very wisely, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me, and the Saviour Himself saith to the holy Apostles, John 15:5. Without Me ye can do nothing. For He is our desire, He, our courage to any good work; He our strength, and, if He is with us, we shall do well Ephesians 2:21-22, building ourselves to a holy temple, a habitation of God in the Spirit; if He depart and withdraws, how should any doubt, that we should fail, overcome by sluggishness and want of courage?"

In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
In the four and twentieth day of the month - The interval of twenty-three days must have been spent in preparation, since the message came on the first of the month, and the obedience was immediate.

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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