Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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,
THE BOOK OF HAGGAI Commentary by A. R. Faussett
The name Haggai means "my feast"; given, according to Cocceius, in anticipation of the joyous return from exile. He probably was one of the Jewish exiles (of the tribes Judah, Benjamin, and Levi) who returned under Zerubbabel, the civil head of the people, and Joshua, the high priest, 536 B.C., when Cyrus (actuated by the striking prophecies as to himself, Isa 44:28; 45:1) granted them their liberty, and furnished them with the necessaries for restoring the temple (2Ch 36:23; Ezr 1:1; 2:2). The work of rebuilding went on under Cyrus and his successor Cambyses (called Ahasuerus in Ezr 4:6) in spite of opposition from the Samaritans, who, when their offers of help were declined, began to try to hinder it. These at last obtained an interdict from the usurper Smerdis the Magian (called Artaxerxes in Ezr 4:7-23), whose suspicions were easy to rouse. The Jews thereupon became so indifferent to the work that when Darius came to the throne (521 B.C.), virtually setting aside the prohibitions of the usurper, instead of recommencing their labors, they pretended that as the prophecy of the seventy years applied to the temple as well as to the captivity in Babylon (Hag 1:2), they were only in the sixty-eighth year of it [Henderson]; so that, the proper time not having yet arrived, they might devote themselves to building splendid mansions for themselves. Haggai and Zechariah were commissioned by Jehovah (Hag 1:1) in the second year of Darius (Hystaspes), 520 B.C., sixteen years after the return under Zerubbabel, to rouse them from their selfishness to resume the work which for fourteen years had been suspended. Haggai preceded Zechariah in the work by two months.
The dates of his four distinct prophecies are accurately given: (1) The first (Hag 1:1-15), on the first day of the sixth month of the second year of Darius, 520 B.C., reproved the people for their apathy in allowing the temple to lie in ruins and reminded them of their ill success in everything because of their not honoring God as to His house. The result was that twenty-four days afterwards they commenced building under Zerubbabel (Hag 1:12-15). (2) The second, on the twenty-first day of the seventh month (Hag 2:1-9), predicts that the glory of the new temple would be greater than that of Solomon's, so that the people need not be discouraged by the inferiority in outward splendor of the new, as compared with the old temple, which had so moved to tears the elders who had remembered the old (Ezr 3:12, 13). Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel had implied the same prediction, whence some had doubted whether they ought to proceed with a building so inferior to the former one; but Haggai shows wherein the superior glory was to consist, namely, in the presence of Him who is the "desire of all nations" (Hag 2:7). (3) The third, on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (Hag 2:10-19), refers to a period when building materials had been collected, and the workmen had begun to put them together, from which time forth God promises His blessing; it begins with removing their past error as to the efficacy of mere outward observances to cleanse from the taint of disobedience as to the temple building. (4) The fourth (Hag 2:20-23), on the same day as the preceding, was addressed to Zerubbabel, as the representative of the theocratic people, and as having asked as to the national revolutions spoken of in the second prophecy (Hag 2:7).
The prophecies are all so brief as to suggest the supposition that they are only a summary of the original discourses. The space occupied is but three months from the first to the last.
The Jews' adversaries, on the resumption of the work under Zerubbabel, Haggai, and Zechariah, tried to set Darius against it; but that monarch confirmed Cyrus' decree and ordered all help to be given to the building of the temple (Ezr 5:3, &c.; Ezr 6:1, &c.). So the temple was completed in the sixth year of Darius' reign 516-515 B.C. (Ezr 6:14).
The style of Haggai is consonant with his messages: pathetic in exhortation, vehement in reproofs, elevated in contemplating the glorious future. The repetition of the same phrases (for example, "saith the Lord," or "the Lord of hosts," Hag 1:2, 5, 7; and thrice in one verse, Hag 2:4; so "the spirit," thrice in one verse, Hag 1:14) gives a simple earnestness to his style, calculated to awaken the solemn attention of the people, and to awaken them from their apathy, to which also the interrogatory form, often adopted, especially tends. Chaldaisms occur (Hag 2:3; 2:6; 2:16), as might have been expected in a writer who was so long in Chaldea. Parts are purely prose history; the rest is somewhat rhythmical, and observant of poetic parallelism.
Haggai is referred to in Ezr 5:1; 6:14; and in the New Testament (Heb 12:26; compare Hag 2:6, 7, 22).
Hag 1:1-15. Haggai Calls the People to Consider Their Ways in Neglecting to Build God's House: The Evil of This Neglect to Themselves: The Honor to God of Attending to It: The People's Penitent Obedience under Zerubbabel Followed by God's Gracious Assurance.
1. second year of Darius—Hystaspes, the king of Medo-Persia, the second of the world empires, Babylon having been overthrown by the Persian Cyrus. The Jews having no king of their own, dated by the reign of the world kings to whom they were subject. Darius was a common name of the Persian kings, as Pharaoh of those of Egypt, and Cæsar of those of Rome. The name in the cuneiform inscriptions at Persepolis is written Daryawus, from the root Darh, "to preserve," the Conservator [Lassen]. Herodotus [6.98] explains it Coercer. Often opposite attributes are assigned to the same god; in which light the Persians viewed their king. Ezr 4:24 harmonizes with Haggai in making this year the date of the resumption of the building.
sixth month—of the Hebrew year, not of Darius' reign (compare Zec 1:7; 7:1, 3; 8:19). Two months later ("the eighth month," Zec 1:1) Zechariah began to prophesy, seconding Haggai.
the Lord—Hebrew, Jehovah: God's covenant title, implying His unchangeableness, the guarantee of His faithfulness in keeping His promises to His people.
by Haggai—Hebrew, "in the hand of Haggai"; God being the real speaker, His prophet but the instrument (compare Ac 7:35; Ga 3:19).
Zerubbabel—called also Shesh-bazzar in Ezr 1:8; 5:14, 16, where the same work is attributed to Shesh-bazzar that in Ezr 3:8 is attributed to Zerubbabel. Shesh-bazzar is probably his Chaldean name; as Belteshazzar was that of Daniel. Zerubbabel, his Hebrew name, means "one born in Babylon."
son of Shealtiel—or Salathiel. But 1Ch 3:17, 19 makes Pedaiah his father. Probably he was adopted by his uncle Salathiel, or Shealtiel, at the death of his father (compare Mt 1:12; Lu 3:27).
governor of Judah—to which office Cyrus had appointed him. The Hebrew Pechah is akin to the original of the modern Turkish Pasha; one ruling a region of the Persian empire of less extent than that under a satrap.
Joshua—called Jeshua (Ezr 2:2); so the son of Nun in Ne 8:17.
Josedech—or Jehozadak (1Ch 6:15), one of those carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar. Haggai addresses the civil and the religious representatives of the people, so as to have them as his associates in giving God's commands; thus priest, prophet, and ruler jointly testify in God's name.
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.
2. the Lord of hosts—Jehovah, Lord of the powers of heaven and earth, and therefore requiring implicit obedience.
This people—"This" sluggish and selfish "people." He does not say, My people, since they had neglected the service of God.
The time—the proper time for building the temple. Two out of the seventy predicted years of captivity (dating from the destruction of the temple, 558 B.C., 2Ki 25:9) were yet unexpired; this they make their plea for delay [Henderson]. The seventy years of captivity were completed long ago in the first year of Cyrus, 536 B.C. (Jer 29:10); dating from 606 B.C., Jehoiakim's captivity (2Ch 36:6). The seventy years to the completion of the temple (Jer 25:12) were completed this very year, the second of Darius [Vatablus]. Ingenious in excuses, they pretended that the interruption in the work caused by their enemies proved it was not yet the proper time; whereas their real motive was selfish dislike of the trouble, expense, and danger from enemies. "God," say they, "hath interposed many difficulties to punish our rash haste" [Calvin]. Smerdis' interdict was no longer in force, now that Darius the rightful king was on the throne; therefore they had no real excuse for not beginning at once to build. Auberlen denies that by "Artaxerxes" in Ezr 4:7-22 is meant Smerdis. Whether Smerdis or Artaxerxes Longimanus be meant, the interdict referred only to the rebuilding of the city, which the Persian kings feared might, if rebuilt, cause them trouble to subdue; not to the rebuilding of the temple. But the Jews were easily turned aside from the work. Spiritually, like the Jews, men do not say they will never be religious, but, It is not time yet. So the great work of life is left undone.
Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?
4. Is it time—It is not time (Hag 1:2), ye say, to build Jehovah's house; yet how is it that ye make it a fit time not only to build, but to "dwell" at ease in your own houses?
you, O ye—rather, for "you, you"; the repetition marking the shameful contrast between their concern for themselves, and their unconcern for God [Maurer]. Compare a similar repetition in 1Sa 25:24; Zec 7:5.
ceiled—rather, "wainscoted," or "paneled," referring to the walls as well as the ceilings; furnished not only with comfort but luxury, in sad contrast to God's house not merely unadorned, but the very walls not raised above the foundations. How different David's feelings (2Sa 7:2)!
Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
5. Consider your ways—literally, "Set your heart" on your ways. The plural implies, Consider both what ye have done (actively, La 3:40) and what ye have suffered (passively) [Jerome]. Ponder earnestly whether ye have gained by seeking self at the sacrifice of God.
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.
6. Nothing has prospered with you while you neglected your duty to God. The punishment corresponds to the sin. They thought to escape poverty by not building, but keeping their money to themselves; God brought it on them for not building (Pr 13:7; 11:24; Mt 6:33). Instead of cheating God, they had been only cheating themselves.
ye clothe … but … none warm—through insufficiency of clothing; as ye are unable through poverty from failure of your crops to purchase sufficient clothing. The verbs are infinitive, implying a continued state: "Ye have sown, and been bringing in but little; ye have been eating, but not to being satisfied; ye have been drinking, but not to being filled; ye have been putting on clothes, but not to being warmed" [Moore]. Careful consideration of God's dealings with us will indicate God's will regarding us. The events of life are the hieroglyphics in which God records His feelings towards us, the key to which is found in the Bible [Moore].
wages … put … into a bag with holes—proverbial for labor and money spent profitlessly (Zec 8:10; compare Isa 55:2; Jer 2:13). Contrast, spiritually, the "bags that wax not old, the treasure in heaven that faileth not" (Lu 12:33). Through the high cost of necessaries, those who wrought for a day's wages parted with them at once, as if they had put them into a bag with holes.
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.
8. Go up to the mountain—Moriah [Rosenmuller]; Lebanon [Henderson]. Rather, generally, the mountains around, now covered with wood, the growth of the long period of the captivity. So Ne 8:15, "Go forth unto the mount," that is, the neighboring hills [Maurer].
wood—Haggai specifies this as being the first necessary; not to the exclusion of other materials. Stones also were doubtless needed. That the old walls were not standing, as the Hebrew interpreters quoted by Jerome state, or the new walls partly built, appears from Hag 2:18, where express mention is made of laying the foundations.
I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified—I will be propitious to suppliants in it (1Ki 8:30), and shall receive the honor due to Me which has been withheld. In neglecting the temple, which is the mirror of My presence, ye dishonor Me [Calvin]; in its being built, ye shall glorify Me.
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.
9. Ye looked for much—literally, "looked" so as to turn your eyes "to much." The Hebrew infinitive here expresses continued looking. Ye hoped to have your store made "much" by neglecting the temple. The greater was your greediness, the more bitter your disappointment in being poorer than ever.
when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it—even the little crop brought into your barns I dissipated. "I did blow upon," that is, I scattered and caused to perish with My mere breath, as scattered and blighted corn.
mine house … his own house—in emphatic antithesis.
ye run—expressing the keenness of everyone of them in pursuing their own selfish interests. Compare "run," Ps 119:32; Pr 1:16, contrasted with their apathy about God's house.
Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.
10. heaven … is stayed from dew—literally, "stays itself." Thus heaven or the sky is personified; implying that inanimate nature obeys Jehovah's will; and, shocked at His people's disobedience, withholds its goods from them (compare Jer 2:12, 13).
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.
11. I called—what the "heaven" and "earth," the second causes, were said to do (Hag 1:10), being the visible instruments, Jehovah, in this verse, the invisible first cause, declares to be His doing. He "calls for" famine, &c., as instruments of His wrath (2Ki 8:1; Ps 105:16). The contrast is striking between the prompt obedience of these material agencies, and the slothful disobedience of living men, His people.
drought—Hebrew, Choreb, like in sound to Chareeb, "waste" (Hag 1:4, 9), said of God's house; implying the correspondence between the sin and its punishment. Ye have let My house be waste, and I will send on all that is yours a wasting drought. This would affect not merely the "corn," &c., but also "men" and "cattle," who must perish in the absence of the "corn," &c., lost by the drought.
labour of the hands—all the fruits of lands, gardens, and vineyards, obtained by labor of the hands (De 28:33; Ps 78:46).
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.
12. remnant of the people—all those who have returned from the exile (Zec 8:6).
as … God sent him—according to all that Jehovah had enjoined him to speak. But as it is not till Hag 1:14 after Haggai's second message (Hag 1:13) that the people actually obeyed, Maurer translates here, "hearkened to the voice of the Lord," and instead of "as," "because the Lord had sent him." However, English Version rightly represents their purpose of obedience as obedience in God's eyes already, though not carried into effect till Hag 1:14.
Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.
13. the Lord's messenger—so the priests (Mal 2:7) are called (compare Ga 4:14; 2Pe 1:21).
in the Lord's message—by the Lord's authority and commission: on the Lord's embassage.
I am with you—(Mt 28:20). On the people showing the mere disposition to obey, even before they actually set to work, God passes at once from the reproving tone to that of tenderness. He hastens as it were to forget their former unfaithfulness, and to assure them, when obedient, that He both is and will be with them: Hebrew, "I with you!" God's presence is the best of blessings, for it includes all others. This is the sure guarantee of their success no matter how many their foes might be (Ro 8:31). Nothing more inspirits men and rouses them from torpor, than, when relying on the promises of divine aid, they have a sure hope of a successful issue [Calvin].
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,
14. Lord stirred up the spirit of, &c.—God gave them alacrity and perseverance in the good work, though slothful in themselves. Every good impulse and revival of religion is the direct work of God by His Spirit.
came and did work—collected the wood and stones and other materials (compare Hag 1:8) for the work. Not actually built or "laid the (secondary) foundations" of the temple, for this was not done till three months after, namely, the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (Hag 2:18) [Grotius].
In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
15. four and twentieth day—twenty-three days after the first message of Haggai (Hag 1:1).