Notes on Haggai 1
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Haggai 1:1, KJV: 1 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,
Haggai was one of the post-Exilic prophets, along with Zechariah and Malachi. There may have been other prophets who are not mentioned in the Scriptures.
The identity of “Darius” in this verse is not certain, though he was most likely the king of Persia at this time. He could not have been the “Darius the Mede” who, at age 62, conquered Babylon (Daniel 5). That Darius had lived several years before the Jews were allowed to return home. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah give additional information about what happened in this period of time.
Haggai delivered four messages in his seemingly brief ministry and book. He dated these messages, much like Ezekiel had done in his book, written seemingly early in the Exile. This first message was delivered to Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua the high priest.
2 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.
Now Haggai gives the first statement from the LORD of hosts. The people of Israel were saying that the time just wasn’t right for the Temple (the LORD’s House) to be built. This may refer to the period of time before work began on the new Temple but was stopped due to the king’s orders (see Ezra’s book). How long or how much time elapsed between the return of the exiles and this message is not certain, but at first glance, there had been enough time to get something done.
3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
This is the standard means or statement by which God communicated His message to His people. Amos had said, years earlier, “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).”
4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?
The LORD asked this question of the Israelites now living again in the land. Apparently the people had completed work on their own houses but not much of anything for the LORD’s house (see verse 2). This verse implies nothing had been done to repair the Temple since it had been destroyed just before the people of Jerusalem were taken to Babylon (Jeremiah 39, 2 Chronicles 36:15-21, 2 Kings 25:1-21).
5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
This message is just the introduction, or perhaps an attention getter. The irony is that the Israelites had indeed considered their ways, deciding it was time to build their own houses but not time to build God’s House.
6 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.
Now Haggai brings several charges from God against the Israelites. He speaks of the small harvest (sowing much but reaping little), lingering hunger (they ate but didn’t have enough), lack of certain undefined beverages (they drank but were not filled—was this a reference to something besides water?), clothing that was not seemingly adequate (they wore clothes but didn’t stay warm), and loss of money (earning wages but putting the money into a bag with holes). This last is especially relevant to even this day: how many of us have discovered a hole in a pocket, and loss of coins or other valuables?
7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
This is the second time the LORD of hosts tells the Israelites to consider their ways. He had just shown them several examples where they were missing out on God’s best. Now He tells them again to “consider their ways”. Repetition of a phrase usually means an emphasis on what the phrase says.
8 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.
Several comments for this verse: one, note that the LORD told them to “go up to the mountain”. This mountain is not identified, but it had to be higher in elevation than Jerusalem itself, otherwise God would not have told them “go up”.
Second, the LORD tells them to use what is available. Many years before, Solomon had arranged for Hiram of Tyre to cut down cedars and have them brought to Jerusalem for the first Temple (1 Kings 5:6-10) but the LORD said nothing about this here even though some of the trees could be, or were descended from, the cedar trees which Solomon had planted in the “foothills (vale, 1 Kings 10:27, KJV)”
Then the LORD, through Haggai, gave them two commands and two promises. First He said, “Go to the mountain and bring wood”, which was also part of the first Temple. Wood was also necessary for the various sacrifices and offerings but that may not be the primary focus here. What benefit would there be to have wood for the offering if there is no Temple? The second command, after “bring wood”, is “build the House”. God had already told the Israelites that He was not pleased that they were living in “ceiled” houses (verse 4) and His house was still in ruins!
After this, the LORD gave the two promises, He said, implying this would happen after they built His house, He would take pleasure and would be glorified. There is no mention in the text that anything happened here, such as what happened at Solomon’s dedication of the first Temple (2 Chron. 5:11-14), but apparently the LORD did “take pleasure” in this second Temple. Nothing indicates otherwise.
One final comment: Dr. J. Vernon McGee on one of his “Thru the Bible” radio broadcasts mentioned that Haggai was a practical man; he didn’t waste words and said exactly what was needed. Agreed!
9 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.
The LORD uses graphic language here to remind the Israelites they weren’t doing as well as they thought they were. They looked (for what is not specified) for much but found little, and even what they did bring home, the LORD says He blew it out or their possession, so to speak (the figure of speech is not clear as translated in the KJV). Then He explains why this was happening: again, it was because the people had built their own houses, but had not built God’s house on this earth.
10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.
How long this drought went on is not specified. At the least, this might well be a parallel to what had happened in the days of Elijah, when there was no rain nor dew for 3-1/2 years (1 Kings 17:1)! Did any of the Israelites even think to seek the face of the LORD and find out why this was happening?
11 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.
The LORD now gives additional details about the drought and lack of harvests. “Corn” is not “maize” or “Indian corn” but could refer to any kind of grain. New wine and oil were important, too, and in the future, these two items will be protected even though grain would be sold at rather high prices (Revelation 6:5-6; a “penny” meant a day’s wage and a “measure” of wheat or barley was a small quantity—the exact amount is not certain). The idea is that God was punishing Israel because they had not done the right thing—they had not built or rebuilt God’s house.
12 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.
Zerubbabel and Joshua were the two men to whom this message was addressed. Now that they heard the message from God through Haggai, they obeyed the “voice of the LORD their God”, and even better, the people did fear the LORD.
13 Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.
This promise is just like the one given by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in Matthew 28:20.
14 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,
They had not only heard and believed the message, they did something about it. This, if nothing else, proves genuine obedience to the LORD.
15 In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
This was the date when Haggai delivered this first message. The “sixth month” would most likely be counted from the “first month”, or the month of the Passover, which fell between mid-March and mid-April; so, the sixth month would be roughly October in our calendar. Something to keep in mind is that the Jewish people used the lunar calendar, based on the moon’s phases. They even had a monthly sacrifice to celebrate the new moon (Numbers 28:11-15) and a feast (1 Chron. 23:31); at one such feast, Saul had planned to kill David and tried to kill Jonathan, his own son (1 Samuel 20)!
Haggai also delivered three more messages besides this one that are recorded in Scripture. These messages are found in the next chapter.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).