Past Calamities Accounted for; New Blessings Assured, Haggai 2:10-19

10. In the four and twentieth (day) of the ninth (month), in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, 

11. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts: Ask now the priests for instruction, saying,

12. Behold, 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 food, shall be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.

13. Then said Haggai, If (one that is) unclean through a (dead) person touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priest answered and said, It shall be unclean.

14. Then answered Haggai and said, So this people, and so this nation before me, saith the Lord, and so every work of their hands, and that which they offer there; it is unclean.

15. And now, I pray, turn your hearts from this day and upward. From before a stone in the temple of the Lord:

16. When those (days) were, (it was so that) one had been going to a heap of twenty (measures), and there were (but) ten; one has been going to the winepress for to draw fifty (pails) out of the press, (but) there were (but) twenty.

17. I have smitten you with blight and with mildew and with hail in all the work of your hands, yet ye (turned) not to me, saith the Lord.

18. Turn now your hearts from this day upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth (month), (even) from the day that the temple of the Lord was founded, turn your heart.

19. Is the seed yet in the barn? Yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree and the pomegranate tree, and the olive tree hath not brought forth; (but) from this day I will bless.

10. In the fourth and twentieth day of the ninth month—just three months after the commencement of the building of the temple. The ninth month is called Chisleu (Zech. 7:1) and answers to the latter part of November and first part of December. Came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet. The third divine communication so far given and to be followed by one more. The occasion of the prophecy, since nothing is said concerning it, must be inferred from the content of this Word. 

11. Ask the priests concerning the law— literally lawwithout the article—ask law—and therefore meaning instruction. The priests are requested not merely to cite the law but to draw inferences from it. In this activity the Lord in this instance guides them, so that their deductions are His infallible Word. This is so, seeing that the Lord commands Haggai to ask the priests and seeing that he uses their instruction as a foundation for his message proper. To teach and interpret the law was the duty of the priests (Deut. 17:8-11, 33:10Mal. 2:7). 

12. Holy flesh—the flesh of an animal brought to the altar for sacrificial purposes 2nd slain. Skirt of his garment—A corner of the outer garment could be turned in or out to form a convenient place for carrying articles of various kinds. And with his skirt touch bread . . . shall it be holy?—The particular Mosaic law here involved is stated at Lev. 6:27, 28. It stipulates that the flesh of an animal sacrifice renders holy anything there at the sanctuary with which it may come in contact. The things mentioned are any garment upon which the blood of the sacrifice may have been sprinkled and the earthen vessel or brazen pot in which the flesh was sodden. 

The question that Haggai in connection with this precept propounds to the priests is this: Does the flesh of an animal sacrifice as carried in the skirt of a garment also render holy any article of food that the wearer of the garment may touch with its skirt? 

The people of Israel offering sacrifices are like the man carrying the holy flesh. The food—bread, wine, pottage—represent the soil of the ground as cultivated by the people and all the fruit thereof. So the idea of the question is whether the holiness of the animal sacrifice is transmitted not alone to a man’s garment but to his fields and the fruit thereof as well. The priests’ answer is, “no.” 

13. The second question put to the priests implicates several laws the unifying idea of which is, that to come in contact with a human corpse is to be defiled by it (see Num. 5:2, 11:6, 7, 10Lev. 21:2Num. 6:6). To the question whether anyone defiled through a corpse renders any food unholy, if he touch it, the reply of the priests is, “It shall be unclean.” 

14. The prophet applies the priestly instruction to the case of the people. So this people, and so this nation.—Here the reference is to spiritual and not to ceremonial, outward defilement. As one who has come in contact with a dead person is ceremonially unclean, so the people of Israel are spiritually unclean through their transgressions. Their particular great sin at this time is, that with their surplus wealth they built costly houses for themselves, while neglecting to build the Lord’s temple. Before me—in the estimation of the Lord, in His sight. So every work of their hands and all that which they offer there—Being themselves unclean, all the works of their hands were of necessity unclean, and all that they touched, their sacrifices there in the place of worship, their fields and all the fruit thereof. This being so, the curse of the law was in their fields. It was on their basket and store and the fruit of their land and their kine and the flocks of their sheep (see Haggai 1:6-12). It could not well be otherwise, seeing that all was unclean through their transgressions. And they must not complain because their sacrifices by blood did not beget for them the blessings of the law upon their fields. For the holiness of such sacrifices was not transmitted to food. Thus the priests had instructed. Besides, their sacrificing as their work was unclean through their sins. It was an abomination in the sight of God. God could, therefore, not bless them on the ground of their sacrificing. 

Not that a pure and undefiled animal sacrifice, had there been one partaking of such a character, would have merited with God. This cannot be so. For the animal sacrifices were but shadows, the body of which was Christ. But herein exactly lay their significance for the true believers. They served the true Israel as an instrument with which, through their act of sacrificing, they expressed their faith in God as the God of their salvation through Christ in His Spirit. As standing with their sacrifices in this faith, they received of God for Christ’s sake, by whom all the requirements of the law were to be fulfilled, the blessings of the law also in their fields as tokens of God’s favor upon them. But when His people were carnal and unbelieving, the Lord caused them to experience the curses of the law to lead them to repentance that He might be feared. For as well as do we, they lived solely by the mercies of Christ. 

15. The prophet now will show this post-exilic Israel that the cause of all their troubles, past and present, is their neglectfulness of the temple of the Lord. And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward—not “backward” as the R.V. has it. The meaning is: Taking this day as your point of procedure, look forward, consider the days that lie ahead. The reason that they are exhorted to direct their gaze into the future is given in verse 19, “From this day I will bless.” Soon they shall again be in the possession of the signs of His favor toward them-rain in season and abundant crops. But before breaking the joyful news he once more points to past calamities in order to bring out clearly the contrast between their past calamities and the prosperity that the near future has in store for them now that they have repented and are zealous in building God’s house. 

And so our prophet continues (in verse 15), “From before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord—Before they began to build the Lord’s temple. When those days were—Through all that time. It was a time of sixteen years duration. It had ended but recently. It was only three months ago that building operations had been resumed. The foundation of the temple had been laid (Ezra 3:4), but during all those succeeding years the work was at a standstill. Nothing was further done. And for this there was no excuse valid before God. The real trouble was that there was little heart for the work. 

16. How had they fared through all those years of sinful apathy regarding God’s house? This is described in the rest of verse 16 and in verse 17. The description is similar to that contained in Haggai 1:6, 9-11; disappointment and disaster on every hand. Heap of twenty—That is, a heap of sheaves that appeared as if it contained twenty measures, when threshed was found to contain but ten, only half of what was estimated. Winevat—The receptacle in which the juice flowed, after the gripes were pressed out. Press—Here the vessel that was used to draw up the wine from the lower vat. Some regard the word as an explanatory gloss: Fifty . . . but twenty—A quantity of grapes estimated to yield fifty measures, gave, when pressed out, but ten. 

17. This verse presents the cause of the shortage of crops. And I smote you—The Lord did so by smiting their fields with blasting, mildew and hail. All the labor of your hands— Everything they had raised in the soil of the ground with great toil. Yet ye turned not to me—Refusing to see the hand of God in their calamities, they did not seek after God but persisted in their willing ignorance of His claim upon them. 

It is worthy of note that in Haggai 1:10, 11 the cause of their calamities is said to be drought. Here they are blasting, mildew and hail. It shows that there were several different causes that brought about barrenness and shortage of crops. 

18. Turn your heart, I pray, from this day upward—The same exhortation is contained in verse 1. That it is here repeated shows that our prophet now returns to what he there had started to say but had not completed, namely that from “this day” on the Lord will reward their obedience. Here, too, therefore the adverb “upward” points to the future and not to the past (as some have it). 

In the next clause of this verse (18) “this day” is said to be the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, which in turn is called the day that the temple of the Lord was founded. So this last clause reads in the original text, and not; “The day that the foundation of the temple of the Lord was laid. This is a misinterpretation. It cannot be the idea of the original text. For the foundation of the temple was laid some sixteen years before, shortly after the arrival of the remnant in Jerusalem (see Ezra 3). The clause therefore must be taken to mean, “The day that a commencement was made of the erection of the superstructure of the temple.” It is the same day that a “stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord” (15b). It is the same work described in two different ways. 

I, 14, 15 state that “they came and did the work on the house of the Lord in the four and twentieth day of thesixth month,” which would be three months earlier. But the two passages are not contradictory. It must have taken all of three months to do the preliminary work such as hauling the building material. 

Turn your heart—Repeated at the end of this verse for emphasis. The phrase to be supplied is, “from this day upward.” Turning their heart from this day, which is evil, let them now by all means look upward to God, their ever present helper, and put their confidence in His promise of relief that Haggai is now about to publish unto them. That this is the underlying idea of the exhortation is clear from the succeeding verse. 

19. To enliven their awareness of the terribleness of their plight, to bring it close to their feelings, the prophet, now that he is about to proclaim to them God’s promise of relief, reminds them that the distresses before described, are still with them, in other words, that “this day” is evil still. He first asks them whether the seed is yet in the barn. “Seed,” as is clear from the context, is to be taken not in the sense of corn for planting, but of corn already raised and ready for harvesting. This is plain from the succeeding affirmative statement, “as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree hath not brought forth.” It shows how God’s people must be imagined to have answered the prophet’s question. They said, “No, Lord, the seed is not yet in the barn. There has been little or no harvesting. The fig tree and the olive tree, etc., have not yet brought forth. This day, the time, is still evil. Thou knowest Lord, Lord shew us mercy.” And now the Lord through the prophet as His organ instantaneously replies, “From this day I will bless.”

Now that they have repented and returned to Him and are zealous as builders of His house, His blessing will again be in their fields and upon all the work of their hands. AS visible signs of His favor toward them His penitent people, whom He foreknew in Christ, harvests will again be plentiful and the olive tree and the fig tree will again bring forth abundantly. In a word, He will now cause them to experience the blessings of the law, and this in agreement with His Word spoken centuries earlier through Moses His organ,” And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments, which I command thee this day that . . . all these blessings shall come upon thee . . . Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shalt thou be in the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of the ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shalt thou be in thy basket and in thy store” (etc., Deut. 28:1-5). 

“But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God . . . that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shaI1 be thy basket and thy store . . .” (etc.,Deut. 23:15-17). 

When this post-exilic Israel as God’s believing people connect their past calamities with their indifference and the promised relief with their zeal as builders of God’s house, they will not doubt that their past calamities was a visitation of God in condemnation of their indifference and that their relief is His gracious gift to them in recognition of their zeal, his work in them.

That the prophet, better said, the Lord Himself, was so insistent that His temple be built can be explained. The Word had not yet become flesh. Christ had not yet suffered and died, as the resurrected Christ, entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. The saints had not yet come unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Forthis Jerusalem was not yet (Heb. 12:22). What hit meant is that the earthly Canaan was still the heaven of the church, the earthly Jerusalem the capital of. God’s kingdom and the earthly temple his house. Here in this earthly temple alone of all places the glories of the triune Jehovah were revealed in the face of Christ as reflected by the typical things of the law—the sacrifices and the officiating priest. Here alone God’s altars burned and the priests blessed. Here alone the saints stood before God’s face. Here alone they saw Him and could hear themselves blest of Him. Here the saints shouted with joy. The temple was the bound that drew together the faithful far and near, such of them as were scattered among the nations as well as those that dwelt in the community itself. And so the temple was as yet indispensible. It had therefore to be built. 

Observation on the blessings and cursings of the law. When the people of Israel as a nation served God, they were blessed of the law and then earthly prosperity and physical well-being was their portion. When Israel forsook God, they were cursed of the law, and then the nation was overwhelmed and made to experience all manner of physical calamities. So the blessings and cursings of the law worked themselves out in that day in the existence of the people of Israel. For it was the dispensation of shadows. Both the earthly prosperity and the physical, earthly calamities were typical. The former foreshadowed the true blessedness of the church in glory, and the latter the nameless sufferings and misery of the damned in hell. 

This earthly prosperity was a token of God’s favor toward the elect. It was a blessing only for them. For the reprobated in Israel it was a curse and also meant as a curse. This earthly calamity was a revelation of God’s anger, of the anger of His love with regard to the elect and of the anger of His hatred with regard to the reprobated. For the Israel according to reprobation it was punishment; for the elect it was not punishment but chastisement and here the purpose was to lead to repentance and to drive into the arms of Christ. And therefore, though they suffered all these typical workings of the curses of the law, when in times of national apostasy and decay God would lay His strokes upon the nation, the law, God, did not curse them, their persons. For they were hidden in Christ by virtue of their being chosen in Him before the foundations if the world.