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. The Lord will plunge Nineveh into shameful misery in consequence. Nahum 3:5. "Behold, I come to thee, is the saying of Jehovah of hosts; and uncover thy skirts over thy face, and let nations see they nakedness, and kingdoms thy shame. Nahum 3:6. And cast horrible things upon thee, and shame thee, and make thee a gazing-stock. Nahum 3:7. And it comes to pass, every one who sees thee will flee before thee, and say, Is Nineveh laid waste? Who will bewail her? whence do I seek comforters for thee?" Nahum 3:5.a as in Nahum 2:13. The punishment of Nineveh will correspond to her conduct. Her coquetry shall be repaid to her by the uncovering of her nakedness before the nations (cf. Jeremiah 13:26; Isaiah 47:3; Hosea 2:5). Gillâh, to uncover. Shūlı̄m, fimbriae, the skirts, borders, or lower end of the long sweeping dress (cf. Exodus 28:33-34; Isaiah 6:1). על פּניך, over thy countenance, so that the train when lifted up is drawn over the face. מער, a contraction of מערה, from ערה, signifies in 1 Kings 7:36 an empty space, here nakedness or shame equivalent to ערוה. This thought is carried out still further in literal terms in Nahum 3:6, Nahum 3:7. Shiqqutsı̄m, objects of abhorrence, is used most frequently of idols; but here it is used in a more general sense for unclean or repulsive things, dirt and filth. Throwing dirt upon any one is a figurative expression for the most ignominious treatment or greatest contempt. Nibbēl, to treat contemptuously, not with words, as in Micah 7:6, but with deeds, equivalent to insult or abuse (cf. Jeremiah 14:21). To make it כּראי, the object of sight, i.e., to give up to open shame, παραδειγματίζειν (Matthew 1:19). ראי, a pausal form of ראי, the seeing, here the spectacle, like θέατρον in 1 Corinthians 4:9. This is evident from Nahum 3:7, where ראיך contains a play upon ראי. Every one who looks at her will flee from her as an object of disgust. שׁדּדה, a rare form of the pual for שׁדּדה (for the fact, compare Jeremiah 48:20). The last two clauses express the thought that no one will take pity upon the devastated city, because its fate is so well deserved; compare Isaiah 51:19, where the same words are used of Jerusalem. Nineveh will not be able to protect herself from destruction even by her great power. The prophet wrests this vain hope away from her by pointing in Isaiah 51:8. to the fall of the mighty Thebes in Egypt.
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