Notes on Haggai 2:10-19, Haggai's third message

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

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,

This third message came to Haggai, by the LORD, on the 24th day of the ninth month (probably December), about two full months after the second message.

11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,

This message was intended for only the priests, according to this verse. The topic seems to be an interpretation of the Law, and if anybody should know the Law, the priests should have known it.

12 If 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 meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.

What Haggai means by “holy flesh” is not certain. Apparently it was meat of some kind, small enough for am Israelite to carry in the “skirt of his garment (again uncertain as to meaning)”. Under the Law, some portions of sacrifices could be kept by the Israelite making the offering, whereas certain other offerings were to be completely burned up. Leviticus especially has detailed information about what was to be offered, and how it was to be presented.

The question seems to be, if something holy touches something not holy, will this unholy thing become holy, but the answer from the priests was No. See Leviticus 7:19-21.

An ironic use of this concept was that of the harlot in Proverbs 7, who used what she kept from her “peace offering (Prov. 7:14)” to lure a (foolish) young man into committing adultery with her. Just what she meant, or how she got this “peace offering” is debatable: according to Leviticus 3, this offering was to be burned completely on the altar.

13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.

This question and answer seems to be taken from Leviticus 22. Anything the “unclean” man touched would automatically be considered unclean as well.

14 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.

This verse is not clear as translated in the KJV. In the previous two verses, the priests had stated, in so many words, you can’t make something “clean” that is “unclean”, but it is possible to make something change from clean to unclean. One possibility is that, as in Malachi’s day several years later, the people were offering sacrifices that didn’t meet the standards prescribed in Leviticus, for example.

15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD:

Again there is something unclear in this verse—does “from this day and upward” mean the past, or the future? Ezra 3 describes how the foundation was laid for the New Temple and that reaction was mixed between the elders who remembered Solomon’s Temple and its glory compared with the new temple about to be built. This verse _may_ imply that nothing besides the foundation had been built—Haggai reminds them to “consider from today and beyond (paraphrased), even before a stone was laid upon another stone” in the new Temple.

The phrase “stone upon stone” most likely indicates at least two layers or “courses” of stones had been placed on and above the foundation. Even then, the builders knew to “stagger” or arrange the stones for the sturdiest construction possible—see pictures or drawings of ancient buildings or even the “wailing wall” in Jerusalem for examples.

16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty.

The LORD is still speaking to the priests, apparently, but by extension to all the people of Israel. He reminds them of the past, when they didn’t harvest or obtain as much as they thought they would. Chapter 1 gives more details about God’s past dealings with them.

17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.

All of these problems are weather related. The Israelites still refused to turn back to the LORD.

18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid, consider it.

Haggai quotes God, using the word “consider” three times in this message, much the same as in the first message he had twice said, “Consider your ways”. This means most likely to give some serious thought as to just what exactly they were doing—and why it was wrong. The meager harvests should have made them think but there is no indication the Jews ever did so.

He also reminds them that day, the 24th day of the ninth month (anywhere from mid-December to mid-January, depending on the lunar cycle), was the day the foundation was laid for the new Temple. This is how the verse reads to me.

19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.

Now the LORD asks a rhetorical question, “is the seed yet in the barn?” This implies the sowers had not yet sown the seed for the next harvest. This was winter and probably not the best time for sowing seed. Even so, what seed the Jews had sown did not produce a good harvest—Haggai explained this in both chapters—but now he say, quoting the LORD, that from today onwards, “I will bless you”.

The main reason, let it be remembered, was that the people had spent a great deal of their time and resources in building houses for themselves, but they had not yet rebuilt the House of the LORD. And the LORD, being very displeased with this, told the Jews in no uncertain terms why He was angry with them.

So ends the third message from the LORD through Haggai.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).

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