Haggai 2:13
Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.
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(13) Unclean.—The defilement incurred by contact with a dead body was one of the deepest. (See Numbers 19:11-16.) On the force of the term tmê nephesh, compare the passages Leviticus 21:11; Leviticus 22:4; Numbers 6:6.

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.

13. On the other hand, a legally "unclean" person imparts his uncleanness to any thing, whereas a legally holy thing cannot confer its sanctity on an "unclean" person (Nu 19:11, 13, 22). Legal sanctity is not so readily communicated as legal impurity. So the paths to sin are manifold: the paths to holiness one, and that one of difficult access [Grotius]. One drop of filth will defile a vase of water: many drops of water will not purity a vase of filth [Moore]. Now the second case is proposed for resolution, &c.

If one that is unclean; ceremonially or legally polluted, and unclean.

By a dead body; for such touch, though at unawares, did pollute, Numbers 19:13.

Touch any of these; bread or pottage, wine, or oil, or meat.

Shall it be unclean? shall that which the unclean (by touch of the dead) doth touch become unclean, or no? Though a mediate touch of what is holy will not make holy, yet will not a mediate touch of what is polluted defile whatsoever it toucheth?

It shall be unclean; it is resolved affirmatively, It shall be polluted.

Then said Haggai,.... To the priests; having nothing to object to their answer; but being satisfied with it, he puts another question:

if one that is unclean by a dead body; by the touch of it, Numbers 19:11,

touch any of these, shall it be unclean? that is, if such an impure person, who was so in a ceremonial sense, should touch any of the above things, bread, pottage, wine, or oil, or any meat, would not they become unclean thereby, and so not fit for use?

and the priests answered and said, it shall be unclean; which was rightly answered; for whatsoever such an unclean person touched was unclean, according to the law, Leviticus 19:22. Pollution is more easily and more extensively conveyed than holiness.

Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.
13. unclean by a dead body] Lit. unclean by a person. The full phrase, “a dead person, or body,” occurs Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6; but the word “dead” is often left to be understood as here and Leviticus 21:1; Leviticus 22:4. The law of ceremonial uncleanness as attaching to death (under which there lay, no doubt, the moral idea that death polluted because it was the offspring and the wages of sin) is found in Numbers 19:11-22.

shall it be unclean?] as clearly laid down in Numbers 19:22. Compare, for the moral counterpart, James 2:10, where Dean Plumptre observes: “This seems at first of the nature of an ethical paradox, but practically it states a deep moral truth. If we wilfully transgress one commandment we shew that in principle we sit loose to all. It is but accident, or fear, or the absence of temptation, that prevents our transgressing them also. Actual transgression in one case involves potential transgression in all.” Camb. Bible for Schools, St James, p. 68.

Verse 13. - Unclean by a dead body; Septuagint, ἀκάθαρτος ἐπὶ ψυχῇ: Vulgate. pollutus in anima. These versions are closer to the Hebrew, "unclean by a soul," than the Authorized Version, but not so intelligible. "Soul" (nephesh) is used to mean a person, and, with the attribute "dead" understood, a corpse, as Leviticus 21:1. The full phrase is found in Numbers 6:6, 11. Contact with a dead body produced the gravest ceremonial uncleanness, which lasted seven days, and could be purged only by a double lustration and other rites (Numbers 19:11, etc.). This uncleanness was doubtless connected with the idea that death was the result of sin. Any of these. The things mentioned in the preceding verse. It shall be unclean. In accordance with Numbers 19:22 A polluted human being communicated his pollution to all that he touched. It was owing to the defilement that accompanied contact with the dead that the later Jews used to whiten the sepulchres every year, that they might be seen and avoided (Matthew 23:27, and Lightfoot, 'Her. Hebr.' in loc.). Haggai 2:13The 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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