Haggai 2:12
If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Holy flesh.—The flesh of the sacrifice hallowed the person who touched it (Leviticus 6:27), but this sanctification was not conveyed to anything he might afterwards touch. On the other hand (Haggai 2:13), he who was defiled by such a pollution as contact with a dead body, conveyed defilement even to the tabernacle. (See Numbers 19:13 : “Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord.”) Even so, according to Haggai, the guilt of impiety incurred by the Jews in neglecting the Temple had tainted the labour of their hands, and caused famine. And what merit they might claim for restoring the altar-worship and keeping the prescribed feasts (Ezra 3:2-6) was not conveyed further. It was cancelled by their neglect of an equally important duty. This latter point, however, is not brought out, but is left to be supplied by the prophet’s hearers.

2:10-19 Many spoiled this good work, by going about it with unholy hearts and hands, and were likely to gain no advantage by it. The sum of these two rules of the law is, that sin is more easily learned from others than holiness. The impurity of their hearts and lives shall make the work of their hands, and all their offerings, unclean before God. The case is the same with us. When employed in any good work, we should watch over ourselves, lest we render it unclean by our corruptions. When we begin to make conscience of duty to God, we may expect his blessing; and whoso is wise will understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. God will curse the blessings of the wicked, and make bitter the prosperity of the careless; but he will sweeten the cup of affliction to those who diligently serve him.Ask now the priests concerning the law - The priests answer rightly, that, by the law, insulated unholiness spread further than insulated holiness. The flesh of the sacrifice hallowed whatever it should touch, but not further; but the human being, who was defiled by touching a dead body, defiled all he might touch Numbers 19:22. Haggai does not apply the first part; namely, that the worship on the altar which they reared, while they neglected the building of the temple, did not hallow. The possession of a truly tiring does not counterbalance disobedience. Contrariwise, one defilement defiled the whole man and all which he touched, according to that James 2:10, "whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

In the application, the two melt into one, for the holy thing, namely, the altar which they raised out of fear on their return, so far from hallowing the land or people by the sacrifices offered thereon, was itself defiled. "This people" and "this nation" (not "My people") since they in act disowned Him. "Whatever they offer there," i. e., on that altar, instead of the temple which God commanded, is unclean, offending Him who gave all.

12. "Holy flesh" (that is, the flesh of a sacrifice, Jer 11:15), indeed, makes holy the "skirt" in which it is carried; but that "skirt" cannot impart its sanctity to any thing beyond, as "bread," &c. (Le 6:27). This is cited to illustrate the principle, that a sacrifice, holy, as enveloping divine things (just as the "skirt" is "holy" which envelops "holy" flesh), cannot by its inherent or opus operatum efficacy make holy a person whose disobedience, as that of the Jew while neglecting God's house, made him unholy. If one, any one, bear, carry away from the altar, or the priest’s hands,

holy flesh, part of the sacrifice, legally and ceremonially sanctified, or made holy by the altar on which the whole was sanctified, of which a part is supposed to be carried away

in the skirt of his garment, in the lap of his garment, or in any other cloth or napkin, and this cloth touch any common thing,

as bread, & c., shall that common thing by such contact become legally or ceremonially holy?

The priests answered: who these priests were is not mentioned, but it is likely that there were some among the people who did by the prophet’s persuasion go and propose the case, and they received the answer as here in the negative, for neither mediate nor yet immediate touch of holy things could make common things or unholy persons holy.

If one, any one, bear, carry away from the altar, or the priest’s hands,

holy flesh, part of the sacrifice, legally and ceremonially sanctified, or made holy by the altar on which the whole was sanctified, of which a part is supposed to be carried away

in the skirt of his garment, in the lap of his garment, or in any other cloth or napkin, and this cloth touch any common thing,

as bread, & c., shall that common thing by such contact become legally or ceremonially holy?

The priests answered: who these priests were is not mentioned, but it is likely that there were some among the people who did by the prophet’s persuasion go and propose the case, and they received the answer as here in the negative, for neither mediate nor yet immediate touch of holy things could make common things or unholy persons holy.

If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment,.... Or, "carry" it (q); from one place to another in his pockets or bags, which were in the skirts of his garments. This is to be understood of the flesh of creatures offered in sacrifice, which were sanctified or separated for holy use; part of which belonged to the priests, who might carry it in their pockets to the proper place of eating it:

and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat: which were not holy, and not separated for holy use, but were common meats and drinks: now the question upon this is,

shall it be holy? that is, if either of those common things were touched by the skirt, in the pockets of which the holy flesh were carried, whether they were made holy by such a touch, and no more remained common or profane?

and the priests answered and said, No; they were not sanctified; for though the garment itself was sanctified thereby, and might not be employed in common use till washed, Leviticus 6:27 yet a garment so touched could not convey holiness to whatsoever that touched, or that touched it.

(q) "portaverit", Munster; "portet", Varenius, Reinbeck.

If one bear {g} holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.

(g) That is, the flesh of the sacrifices, by which he means that a thing which of itself is good, cannot make another thing so: and therefore they ought not to justify themselves by their sacrifices and ceremonies: but contrary to this, he that is unclean and not pure of heart, does corrupt those things and make them detestable to God, which otherwise are good and godly.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. If one bear] Lit. Lo! one bears. “See, there is a man bearing—what will happen?” An emphatic Oriental way of saying, “suppose, put the case, that one bears.” So in Jeremiah 3:1 we have, “Lo! a man puts away his wife.” And in 2 Chronicles 7:13, where “if” occurs three times in A. V. the Hebrew has “lo” the first and second time, and “if” the third time.

holy flesh] i.e. flesh which has been offered in sacrifice to God. Comp. Jeremiah 11:15.

the skirt] Lit. the wing. So πτέρυξ, πτερύγιον are used for the skirts or flaps of a cloak or dress.

meat] i.e. food, or eatables. LXX. βρῶμα.

the priests answered and said, No] In Leviticus 6:27 we read of the sin-offering, “Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy.” The garment therefore in which the flesh was carried would be holy, but the holiness would not extend, so the priests ruled it, to anything which the garment touched.

Verse 12. - If one bear; literally, behold, one beareth, which is equivalent to "suppose a man bears." Perowne compares Jeremiah 3:1, "Lo, a man puts away his wife;" and 2 Chronicles 7:13. Holy flesh. The flesh of animals sacrificed to God, which was set apart from profane uses, and might be eaten only by the priests or persons ritually pure (Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 7:15-20; Leviticus 10:13; comp. Jeremiah 11:15). The skirt of his garment; literally, wing of his garment, as Deuteronomy 22:12; 1 Samuel 15:27. Any meat; παντὸς βρώματος: anything eatable. And said, No. The priests answered correctly according to Leviticus 6:27. Whatever touched the hallowed flesh became itself holy, but it could not communicate this holiness to anything else. Haggai 2:12The word of God was as follows: Haggai 2:11. "Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Ask now the priests for instruction, saying, Haggai 2:12. Behold, one carries holy flesh in the lappet of his garment, and touches with his lappet the bread, and that which is boiled, the wine, and the oil, and any kind of food: does it then become holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Haggai 2:13. And Haggai said, If one who is unclean on account of a corpse touches all this, does it become unclean? And the priests answered and said, It does become unclean. Haggai 2:14. Then Haggai answered and said, So is this people, and so this nation before my face, is the saying of Jehovah; and so is all the work of their hands, and what they offer to me there: it is unclean." In order to impress most earnestly upon the hearts of the people the fact that it was through their sin that they brought upon themselves the failure of crops that had hitherto prevailed, viz., as a punishment from God, the prophet proposes two questions concerning holy and clean for the priests to answer, in order that he may make an application of the answer they give to the moral condition of the nation. Tōrâh in Haggai 2:11, without the article, is used in its primary signification of instruction, and is governed by שׁעל, accus. rei: to ask a person anything, for to ask or solicit anything from him. The first question has reference to the communication of the holiness of holy objects to other objects brought into contact with them: whether, if a person carried holy flesh in the lappet of his garment,

(Note: Luther: "in the geren of his dress." The gehren, or gehre, middle high German gre, old high German kro (English goar), is a triangular piece, forming the gusset of a dress or shirt, then that portion of the dress in which it is inserted, viz., below the waist, probably derived from the Gothic gis, and the conjectural root geisan equals to thrust or strike (Weigand, Germ. Dict.).)

and touched any food with the lappet, it would become holy in consequence. Hēn, behold, pointing to an action as possible, has almost the force of a conditional particle, "if," as in Isaiah 54:15; Jeremiah 3:1 (cf. Ewald, 103, g). "Holy flesh" is flesh of animals slain as sacrifices, as in Jeremiah 11:15. Nâzı̄d, that which is boiled, boiled food (Genesis 25:29; 2 Kings 4:38.). The priests answer the question laid before them quite correctly with "No;" for, according to Leviticus 6:20, the lappet of the dress itself was made holy by the holy flesh, but it could not communicate this holiness any further. The second question (Haggai 2:13) has reference to the spread of legal defilement. טמא נפשׁ is not one who is unclean in his soul; but, as Leviticus 22:4 shows, it is synonymous with טמא לנפשׁ in Numbers 5:2; Numbers 9:10, "defiled on a soul;" and this is a contraction of טמא לנפר אדם, or טמא לנפשׁ מת, in Numbers 9:6-7, "defiled on (through) the soul of a dead man" (Numbers 6:6; Leviticus 21:11 : see at Leviticus 19:28), hence one who has been defiled through touching a dead body. This uncleanness was one of the strongest kinds; it lasted seven days, and could only be removed by his being twice purified with sprinkling water, prepared from the ashes of the red cow (see at Numbers 19). This question the priests also answered correctly. According to Numbers 19:22, he who was defiled by touching a dead body made everything unclean that he touched. The prophet now applies these provisions of the law to the ethical relation in which the people stood to Jehovah. "So is this people before me, saith Jehovah." הגּוי is quite synonymous with העם, as in Zephaniah 2:9, without any subordinate meaning of a contemptuous kind, which could at the most be contained in hazzeh (this), but in that case would apply to hâ‛âm just as well. Kēn, ita, refers to the substance of the two legal questions in Haggai 2:12 and Haggai 2:13. The nation, in its attitude towards the Lord, resembles, on the one hand, a man who carries holy flesh in the lappet of his garment, and on the other hand, a man who has become unclean through touching a corpse. "Israel also possesses a sanctuary in the midst of its land, - namely, the place which Jehovah has chosen for His own abode, and favoured with many glorious promises. But just as no kind of food, neither bread nor vegetables, neither wine nor oil, is sanctified by the fact that a man touches it with his sanctified garment, so will all this not be rendered holy by the fact that it is planted in the soil of the land which surrounds and encloses the sanctuary of Jehovah. For though the land itself becomes a holy land in consequence, it cannot spread this holiness any further, nor communicate it to what grows upon it. All that Israel raises on its holy land, whether corn, wine, or oil, remains unholy or common. No special blessing rests upon the fruits of this land, on account of the holiness of the land itself, so as of necessity to produce fruitfulness as its result; nor, on the other hand, does it in itself communicate any curse. But if, as experience shows, a curse is resting notwithstanding upon the productions of this land, it arises from the fact that they are unclean because Israel has planted them. For Israel it utterly unclean on account of its neglect of the house of Jehovah, like a man who has become unclean through touching a corpse. Everything that Israel takes hold of, or upon which it lays its hand, everything that it plants and cultivates, is from the very first affected with the curse of uncleanness; and consequently even the sacrifices which it offers there upon the altar of Jehovah are unclean" (Koehler). Shâm, there, i.e., upon the altar built immediately after the return from Babylon (Ezra 3:3).

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