Haggai 2:14
Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, said the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.
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(14) That which they offer therei.e., probably, “on yon altar,” but the expression is singular. In Ezra 3:3 we read, “And they set the altar upon his bases. . . . and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening.”

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.

14. Then answered Haggai—rather, "Then Haggai answered (in rejoinder to the priests' answer) and said" [Maurer].

so is this people—heretofore not in such an obedient state of mind as to deserve to be called My people (Tit 1:15). Here he applies the two cases just stated. By the first case, "this people" is not made "holy" by their offerings "there" (namely, on the altar built in the open air, under Cyrus, Ezr 3:3); though the ritual sacrifice can ordinarily sanctify outwardly so far as it reaches (Heb 9:13), as the "holy flesh" sanctified the "skirt," yet it cannot make the offerers in their persons and all their works acceptable to God, because lacking the spirit of obedience (1Sa 15:22) so long as they neglected to build the Lord's house. On the contrary, by the second case, they made "unclean" their very offerings by being unclean through "dead works" (disobedience), just as the person unclean by contact with a dead body imparted his uncleanness to all that he touched (compare Heb 9:14). This all applies to them as they had been, not as they are now that they have begun to obey; the design is to guard them against falling back again. The "there" points to the altar, probably in view of the audience which the prophet addressed.

Now is the case applied. As common things touched by holy things are not sanctified, and as polluted persons touching what is clean pollute it; as holy things did not by touch and bodily application make him legally holy who was common, but a polluted person made all he touched and handled unclean; so unsanctified and polluted Jews polluted God’s ordinances, while the outward performing of legal and ceremonial duties, such as bringing, offering, eating, dragging about their legal sacrifices, left them as unholy in themselves and as unacceptable to God as they were before. Somewhat more then is to be done. The soul is first to be purified, that they and we may offer up a pure offering.

So is the people; the body of the Jews, or the most part of them.

So is this nation: this ingeminateth the same thing, to intimate to us how God resenteth it, and how we should be affected with it.

Before me; in God’s account, or in his sight, who seeth indeed what men are, and what their actions are.

So is every work of their hands; whatever they do in sacred or civil matters, they make a shift to pollute all by polluted hands, by leprous touches.

That which they offer there, what they do bring to the altar with impure hearts and hands, is more polluted by them than sanctified by the altar.

Is unclean; really impure; though it seem externally clean and holy, it is unsuitable to the purity of a holy God. In sanctified actions all is spoiled by unsanctified hearts. Thence it is that uncleanness is derived on their best works, and consecrated rites do not, cannot sanctify profane spirits. Then answered Haggai, and said,.... To the priests, and before the people; and made an application of these things to them, which was the thing in view in putting the questions:

So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; not only those people that were present and at work at the temple, but those that were absent, even the whole body of the people; who, though they were pure in their own eyes, yet were not so before the Lord; who knew their hearts, and the spring of all their actions; what were their ends and views in all they did: as a garment carrying in it holy flesh could not sanctify other things touched by it that were common and profane, but left them as they were; so their ritual devotions, and externally holy actions, did not and could not sanctify their impure hearts, but left them as unclean as before; nor did they sanctify their common mercies, their bread, pottage, wine, and oil: and, on the other hand, as an impure person made everything impure he touched; so they, being impure in heart, all their actions, even their religious ones, were impure also, as follows:

and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean; pointing at the altar, which they had built, and offered sacrifice on ever since they came out of Babylon, though the temple was not yet built, Ezra 3:3 but all their outward religious services, and all the sacrifices they offered up, were in the Lord's account impure and abominable, as well as themselves; coming from an unsanctified heart, and offered up with unclean hands, and without repentance towards God, and faith in Christ; and living in other respects in disobedience to God, and especially while they neglected the building of the temple; satisfying themselves with offering sacrifices on the altar, when the house of God lay desolate; which is the principal thing respected, as appears by what follows.

Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.
14. This verse contains the application to the present case of the Jews of the principles brought out by the foregoing questions. The second principle, as to the transmission of uncleanness, is first applied in the former clauses of the verse, while the first principle, as to the non-transmission of holiness, is referred to in the last clause. “So,” resembling the case just described, “is this people and this nation, before Me, saith the Lord.” It is polluted in itself, like the man who is “unclean by a dead body,” through its disobedience, and neglect of my Temple. “And so,” defiled through this act of disobedience, just as whatever he touches is defiled by the touch of him who has had contact with the dead, “is every work of their hands.” The blight that rests on all their industry and labour, that mars and withers every work in which their hands are engaged, is the punishment and the proof of the moral uncleanness, which residing in themselves extends to all that they put their hand to. “And that which they offer there,” (on the altar which they have built to My Name in Jerusalem,) so far from sanctifying their works, as they vainly think, is itself through the pervading influence of their sin “unclean.” The sanctifying influence of the altar on which they pride themselves would at best but have reached a little way. The prevailing power of their disobedience vitiates all such sanctifying influence, and renders the very offerings on the altar itself unclean.

this people and so is this nation] See ch. Haggai 1:2. The addition of the word “nation,” the word commonly used for the heathen nations of the world, as distinguished from the Jews who were the “people” of God, has been thought to be a further sign of contempt and rejection. But the two words are used together of Israel in Zephaniah 2:9, where no such meaning can be intended.

there] On the altar built on their return from Babylon. Ezra 3:3.Verse 14. - Then answered Haggai, and said; then Haggai continued and said. He applies the principles just enunciated to the case of the Jews, taking the communication of uncleanness first. So is this people. Not, my people, because by their acts they had disowned God (Haggai 1:2). This people is defiled in my sight like one who has touched a corpse, and not only they themselves, but so is every work of their hands; all their labour, all that they put their hands to, is unclean, and can win no blessing. Their pollution was their disobedience in not building the house of God. They had calmly contemplated the lifeless symbol of the theocracy, the ruined temple, and made no determined effort to resuscitate it, so a blight had rested on all their work. That which they offer there (pointing to the altar which they had built when they first returned, Ezra 3:2) is unclean. They had fancied that the sanctifying influence of the altar and its sacrifices would extend to all their works, and cover all their shortcomings; but so far from this, their very offerings were unclean, because the offerers were polluted. They who come before the Holy One should themselves be holy. Neither the altar nor the Holy Land imparted sanctity by any intrinsic virtue of their own, but entailed upon all an obligation to personal holiness (Wordsworth). The LXX. has an addition at the end of the verse. Ανεκεν τῶν λημμάτων αὐτῶν τῶν ὀρθρινῶν ὀδυνηθήσονται ἀπὸ προσώπου πόνων αὐτῶν καὶ ἐμισεῖτε ἐν πύλαις ἐλέγχοντας "On account of their morning gains [or, 'burdens'] they shall be pained in the presence of their labours, and ye hated those who reproved in the gates." This is expounded by Theodoret thus: As soon as morning dawned ye employed yourselves in no good work, but sought only how to obtain sordid gain. And ye regarded with. hatred these who reproved, you, who sitting at the gate spake words of wisdom to all who passed by. The passage is found in no other version. Nineveh will share the fate of No-Ammon. - Nahum 3:8. "Art thou better than No-amon, that sat by rivers, waters round about her, whose bulwark was the sea, her wall of sea? Nahum 3:9. Ethiopians and Egyptians were (her) strong men, there is no end; Phut and Libyans were for thy help. Nahum 3:10. She also has gone to transportation, into captivity; her children were also dashed in pieces at the corners of all roads; upon her nobles they cast the lot, and all her great men were bound in chains." התיטבי for התיטבי, for the sake of euphony, the imperfect kal of יטב, to be good, used to denote prosperity in Genesis 12:13 and Genesis 40:14, is applied here to the prosperous condition of the city, which was rendered strong both by its situation and its resources. נא אמון, i.e., probably "dwelling (נא contracted from נוא, cf. נאות) of Amon," the sacred name of the celebrated city of Thebes in Upper Egypt, called in Egyptian P-amen, i.e., house of the god Amun, who had a celebrated temple there (Herod. i. 182, ii. 42; see Brugsch, Geogr. Inschr. i. p. 177). The Greeks called it Διὸς πόλις, generally with the predicate ἡ μεγάλη (Diod. Sic. i. 45), or from the profane name of the city, which was Apet according to Brugsch (possibly a throne, seat, or bank), and with the feminine article prefixed, Tapet, or Tape, or Tepe, Θήβη, generally used in the plural Θῆβαι. This strong royal city, which was described even by Homer (Il. ix. 383) as ἑκατόμπυλος, and in which the Pharaohs of the 18th to the 20th dynasties, from Amosis to the last Rameses, resided, and created those works of architecture which were admired by Greeks and Romans, and the remains of which still fill the visitor with astonishment, was situated on both banks of the river Nile, which was 1500 feet in breadth at that point, and was built upon a broad plain formed by the falling back of the Libyan and Arabian mountain wall, over which there are now scattered nine larger or smaller fellah-villages, including upon the eastern bank Karnak and Luxor, and upon the western Gurnah and Medinet Abu, with their plantations of date-palms, sugar-canes, corn, etc. היּשׁבה בּיארים, who sits there, i.e., dwells quietly and securely, on the streams of the Nile. The plural יארים refers to the Nile with its canals, which surrounded the city, as we may see from what follows: "water round about her." אשׁר־חיל, not which is a fortress of the sea (Hitzig), but whose bulwark is sea. חיל (for חילהּ) does not mean the fortified place (Hitzig), but the fortification, bulwark, applied primarily to the moats of a fortification, with the wall belonging to it; then, in the broader sense, the defence of a city in distinction from the actual wall (cf. Isaiah 26:1; Lamentations 2:8). מיּם, consisting of sea is its wall, i.e., its wall is formed of sea. Great rivers are frequently called yâm, sea, in rhetorical and poetical diction: for example, the Euphrates in Isaiah 27:1; Jeremiah 51:36; and the Nile in Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 19:5; Job 41:23. The Nile is still called by the Beduins bahr, i.e., sea, and when it overflows it really resembles a sea.

To the natural strength of Thebes there was also added the strength of the warlike nations at her command. Cush, i.e., Ethiopians in the stricter sense, and Mitsraim, Egyptians, the two tribes descended from Ham, according to Genesis 10:6, who formed the Egyptian kingdom before the fall of Thebes, and under the 25th (Ethiopian) dynasty. עצמה, as in Isaiah 40:29; Isaiah 47:9, for עצם, strength; it is written without any suffix, which may easily be supplied from the context. The corresponding words to עצמה in the parallel clause are ואין קצה (with Vav cop.): Egyptians, as for them there is no number; equivalent to an innumerable multitude. To these there were to be added the auxiliary tribes: Put, i.e., the Libyans in the broader sense, who had spread themselves out over the northern part of Africa as far as Mauritania (see at Genesis 10:6); and Lubim equals Lehâbhı̄m, the Libyans in the narrower sense, probably the Libyaegyptii of the ancients (see at Genesis 10:13). בּעזרתך (cf. Psalm 35:2) Nahum addresses No-amon itself, to give greater life to the description. Notwithstanding all this might, No-amon had to wander into captivity. Laggōlâh and basshebhı̄ are not tautological. Laggōlâh, for emigration, is strengthened by basshebhı̄ into captivity. The perfect הלכה is obviously not to be taken prophetically. The very antithesis of גּם־היא הלכה and גּם־אתּ תּשׁכּרי (Nahum 3:11) shows to itself that הלכה refers to the past, as תּשׁכּרי does to the future; yea, the facts themselves require that Nahum should be understood as pointing to the fate which the powerful city of Thebes had already experienced. For it must be an event that has already occurred, and not something still in the future, which he holds up before Nineveh as a mirror of the fate that is awaiting it. The clauses which follow depict the cruelties that were generally associated with the taking of an enemy's cities. For עלליה וגו roF .se, see Hosea 14:1; Isaiah 13:16, and 2 Kings 8:12; and for ידּוּ גורל, Joel 3:3 and Obadiah 1:11. Nikhbaddı̄m, nobiles; cf. Isaiah 23:8-9. Gedōlı̄m, magnates; cf. Jonah 3:7. It must be borne in mind, however, that the words only refer to cruelties connected with the conquest and carrying away of the inhabitants, and not to the destruction of No-amon.

We have no express historical account of this occurrence; but there is hardly any doubt that, after the conquest of Ashdod, Sargon the king of Assyria organized an expedition against Egypt and Ethiopia, conquered No-amon, the residence of the Pharaohs at that time, and, as Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 20:3-4), carried the prisoners of Egypt and Ethiopia into exile. According to the Assyrian researches and their most recent results (vid., Spiegel's Nineveh and Assyria in Herzog's Cyclopaedia), the king Sargon mentioned in Isaiah 20:1 is not the same person as Shalmaneser, as I assumed in my commentary on 2 Kings 17:3, but his successor, and the predecessor of Sennacherib, who ascended the throne during the siege of Samaria, and conquered that city in the first year of his reign, leading 27,280 persons into captivity, and appointing a vicegerent over the country of the ten tribes. In Assyrian Sargon is called Sar Kin, i.e., essentially a king. He was the builder of the palace at Khorsabad, which is so rich in monuments; and, according to the inscriptions, he carried on wars in Susiana, Babylon, the borders of Egypt, Melitene, Southern Armenia, Kurdistan, and Media; and in all his expeditions he resorted to the removal of the people in great numbers, as one means of securing the lasting subjugation of the lands (see Spiegel, l.c. p. 224). In the great inscription in the palace-halls of Khorsabad, Sargon boasts immediately after the conquest of Samaria of a victorious conflict with Pharaoh Sebech at Raphia, in consequence of which the latter became tributary, and also of the dethroning of the rebellious king of Ashdod; and still further, that after another king of Ashdod, who had been chosen by the people, had fled to Egypt, he besieged Ashdod with all his army, and took it. Then follows a difficult and mutilated passage, in which Rawlinson (Five Great Monarchies, ii. 416) and Oppert (Les Sargonides, pp. 22, 26, 27) find an account of the complete subjugation of Sebech (see Delitzsch on Isaiah, at Isaiah 20:5-6). There is apparently a confirmation of this in the monuments recording the deeds of Esarhaddon's successor, whose name is read Assur-bani-pal, according to which that king carried on tedious wars in Egypt against Tirhaka, who had conquered Memphis, Thebes, and sundry other Egyptian cities during the illness of Esarhaddon, and according to his own account, succeeded at length in completely overcoming him, and returned home with rich booty, having first of all taken hostages for future good behaviour (see Spiegel, p. 225). If these inscriptions have been read correctly, it follows from them that from the reign of Sargon the Assyrians made attempts to subjugate Egypt, and were partially successful, though they could not maintain their conquests. The struggle between Assyria and Egypt for supremacy in Hither Asia may also be inferred from the brief notices in the Old Testament (2 Kings 17:4) concerning the help which the Israelitish king Hosea expected from So the king of Egypt, and also concerning the advance of Tirhaka against Sennacherib.

(Note: From the modern researches concerning ancient Egypt, not the smallest light can be obtained as to any of these things. "The Egyptologists (as J. Bumller observes, p. 245) have hitherto failed to fill up the gaps in the history of Egypt, and have been still less successful in restoring the chronology; for hitherto we have not met with a single well-established date, which we have obtained from a monumental inscription; nor have the monuments enabled us to assign to a single Pharaoh, from the 1st to the 21st, his proper place in the years or centuries of the historical chronology.")

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