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.
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.