Haggai 1




ITS RESULT.  (vs. 1-15)


(vs. 1-6)  The people are reproved for their indifference with regard to the erection of

the temple, and admonished that their present distress is a chastisement for this neglect.


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,”

In the second year of Darius the king. This is Darius Hystaspes, who reigned

over Persia from B.C. 521 to B.C. 486. He is called in the inscriptions Daryavush,

which name means “Holder,” or “Supporter.” Herodotus (6:98) explains it as

“Coercer” (ἑρξείης - herxeiaes). Hitherto the prophets have dated the time of the

exercise of their office from the reigns of the legitimate Hebrew monarchs; it shows

a new slate of things when they place at the head of their oracles the name of a

foreign and a heathen potentate. The Jews had, indeed, now no king of their own,

“the tabernacle of David had fallen” (Amos 9:11), and they were living

on sufferance under an alien power. They had returned from exile by

permission of Cyrus in the first year of his occupancy of the throne of

Babylon sixteen years before this time, and had commenced to build the

temple soon after; but the opposition of neighbors, contradictory orders

from the Persian court, and their own lukewarmness had contributed to

hinder the work, and it soon wholly ceased, and remained suspended to the

moment when Haggai, as the seventy years of desolation drew to an end,

was commissioned to arouse them from their apathy, and to urge them to

use the opportunity which was afforded by the accession of the new

monarch and the withdrawal of the vexatious interdict that had checked

their operations in the previous reign (see Introduction; and compare

Ezra 4:24). The sixth month, according to the sacred Hebrew calendar,

which reckoned from Nisan to Nisan. This would be Elul, answering to

parts of our August and September. In the first day. This was the regular

festival of the new moon (Numbers 10:10; Isaiah 1:13), and a

fitting time to urge the building of the temple, without which it could not

be duly celebrated. By; literally, by the hand (as in v. 3), the instrument

whom God used (Exodus 9:35; Jeremiah 37:2; Hosea 12:11; Acts 7:35)

Haggai the prophet (see the Introduction). Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel;

the temporal head of the nation, the representative of the royal house of David,

and therefore with the high priest jointly responsible, for the present state of affairs,

and having power and authority to amend it. The name, as explained, and

rightly, by St. Jerome, means, “Born in Babylon,” and intimates the truth

concerning his origin. He is called Sheshbazzar in Ezra 1:8; 5:14, which

is either his name at the Persian court, or is an erroneous transliteration for

a synonymous word (see Kuabenbauer, in loc.). The name is found in the

cuneiform inscription, as Zir-Babilu. Shealtiel (or Salathiel) means, “Asked

of God.” There is a difficulty about Zerubbabel’s parentage. Here and

frequently in this book, and in Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as in

Matthew 1:12 and Luke 3:27, he is called “son of Shealtiel;” in

I Chronicles 3:19 he is said to be the son of Pedaiah the brother of

Salathiel. The truth probably is that he was by birth the son of Pedaiah, but

by adoption or the law of the levirate, the son of Salathiel. He was

regarded as the grandson of Jehoiachin, or Jeconiah. Governor (pechah).

A foreign word, used in I Kings 10:15, in Isaiah (Isaiah 36:9) and

frequently in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, to denote an inferior satrap or

subordinate governor. Strassmaier (ap. Knabenbauer) notes that in

Assyrian the word is found in the form pachu, that pichatu means “a

province,” pachat, “a district.” It seems natural, though probably

erroneous, to connect it with the Turkish pashah. But see the discussion on

the word in Pusey, ‘Daniel the Prophet,’ p. 566, etc. Instead of “Governor

of Judah,” the Septuagint here and v. 12 and ch.2:2 reads, “of the

tribe of Judah.” One of the house of David has the government, but the

foreign title applied to him shows that he holds authority only as the deputy

of an alien power. Judah was henceforward applied to the whole country.

The prophecy in Genesis 49:10 still held good. Joshua. The highest

spiritual officer (Ezra 3:2, 8; 4:3). This Joshua, Jehoshua, Jeshua, as he

is variously called, was a son of Josedech who, in the time of

Nebuchadnezzar, had been carried captive to Babylon (I Chronicles 6:15),

and grandson of that Seraiah who, with other princes of Judah, was slain at

Riblah by the Babylonians (II Kings 25:18-10). The parentage of

Zerubbabel and Joshua is specially mentioned to show that the former was

of the house of David and the latter of the family of Aaron, and that even in

its depressed condition Israel retained its rightful constitution (see note on

Zechariah 3:1).



The Introduction.  (v.1)


The Bible student, with a view to the clear understanding of the Old

Testament Scriptures, should fix in his mind the order of the prophetical

writings. These books of prophecy may appropriately be arranged under

three heads.


1. Those which stand related to the Assyrian period, including the books of

    Jonah, Joel, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum.

2. Those connected with the Babylonian period, including Habakkuk,

    Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Obadiah.

3. Those associated with the return from the exile: Haggai, Zechariah,

    Malachi. The introduction of this brief prophecy by Haggai suggests to us:



TIME. We are able, through this opening verse, to fix the exact date of this

prophecy. It was “in the second year of Darius the king” that Haggai

fulfilled this special mission, i.e. B.C. 521. Hence upwards of a century had

passed away since Zephaniah had declared so faithfully the terrible Divine

judgments which should overtake the nation on account of its guilt. His

words had proved strictly true, and had been very literally and completely

fulfilled. The land had been rendered utterly desolate; its cities had been

entirely destroyed; its temple reduced to a heap of ruins; and its people

carried away into exile. No King of Judah was referred to by Haggai in

commencing his book, for the simple reason that the throne had fallen, and

he had to recognize the authority of a Persian sovereign, and to speak of

his favored land as a province of a foreign power (ve. 1). The dispersion,

however, had in a measure been followed by the regathering. Zephaniah

had prophesied respecting the return of “a remnant,” and his prophecy had,

in a sense, now been fulfilled, for Cyrus permitted the Jews to colonize

their own land, and a number had availed themselves of this permission,

and had now spent some years in the land given to their fathers, seeking to

repair the waste and desolation which the march of events and the lapse of

time had wrought.



INSTRUMENTALITY. The returned exiles commenced well. Their first

concern had reference to the rebuilding of the house of the Lord, and with

all possible speed they laid the foundation of the second temple. They

were, however, weak and poor; they labored amidst untold difficulties

and discouragements, and it is not surprising that, their hearts becoming

downcast and depressed, their ardor declined and their zeal languished.

They needed stimulus; they required some message from the Lord their

God declarative of His will and purpose; and this need was supplied, for

they heard “a voice from heaven” speaking unto them through Haggai and

Zechariah (ch. 1:1-2; Zechariah 1:1). In every age God has

communicated His will and intention through the instrumentality of man. He

has made holy men, full of human sympathies, the medium of

communicating His purposes. His agents in this instance, as ever, were

admirably chosen. Haggai was advanced in life; he had probably seen the

former temple; he was a link connecting the old with the new, and brought

to bear upon the difficulties of the times a ripened and matured experience;

whilst Zechariah was young, and with all the enthusiasm and warmth of

youth. They worked together in perfect harmony and for the common

good, their prophecies being at times admirably interwoven. There are two

elements in the Bible — the Divine and the human. God speaks to us in

every page, and He does so all the more emphatically, in that He addresses

us through men who possessed throbbing hearts and who passed through

experiences like our own.  (“Elijah was a man subject to like passions as

we are…” – James 5:17)




word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of

Shealtiel, Governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josadech, the high

priest (v. 1). Zerubbabel, of royal descent from David, and Joshua, who

was in the priestly line, had secured the confidence and esteem of the

Jewish community in the land of captivity; and the former had won the

regard of Cyrus, the Persian monarch; so that when the time for the return

came, leaders, esteemed alike by the Jews and their foreign rulers, were

prepared to guide the movement and to carry it through successfully.

God’s work shall never fail through lack of suitable agents to do His

bidding, but He will raise up a bright succession of leal-hearted men

(faithful and true) to carry on His cause, until the ruin and desolation wrought

by sin has been completely repaired, and the top-stone of the temple of

redeemed humanity be “brought forth” amidst rapturous praise.


Divine Revelations (v. 1)




Ø      Often unexpected. In the present instance this was probably the case.

The band of exiles who, availing themselves of Cyrus’s permission

(Ezra 1:3), returned to Judah and Jerusalem — nearly 50,000 persons

in all (ibid. ch. 2:64-65), though Pusey estimates the company of

immigrants at 212,000, counting free men, women, children, and slaves —

had for sixteen years at least not heard a prophet’s voice. The last that had

fallen on their ears had been Daniel’s in Babylon (Daniel 9:1), which

had predicted the going forth of a commandment to build and restore

Jerusalem, and the coming, “seven weeks and three score and two weeks”

thereafter, of Messiah the prince (Daniel 9:25). Now, in the second

year of Darius the king (Ezra 4:24), i.e. about B.C. 520, the interval of

silence terminated, and the lips of a new prophet were unsealed. That God

reserves in His own hands “the times and seasons” of His special

supernatural interpositions in human history, while it should keep men

alive to every movement of the Divine presence in their midst and ought

to guard them against presumption both in making and in interpreting



Ø      Always appropriate. The interpositions of Heaven are never post horam.

The clock of eternity ALWAYS KEEPS TIME!   When the hour comes,

so does the man. Man often speaks at an inopportune moment; God,

never. When Haggai stood forth among the Jews who had returned from

Babylon, they were in urgent need of such a messenger from heaven as

he proved himself to be. Sixteen years at home in their own land, for a

year and a half they had been disheartened about the building of their

temple, and had even discontinued work. Some had even begun to lose

interest in the restoration of the sacred edifice (v. 2). Hence they much

needed rousing from indolence and rebuke for unbelief, as well as

comfort in sadness and succor in weakness; and all this they received

from the new monitor from Jehovah that had arisen in their midst. So

have God’s revelations ever been as suitable to men’s necessities as to

time’s urgencies. Notably was this the case with His showing of

Himself to Moses at the bush (Exodus 3:2), and His disclosure of


(Galatians 4:4).


Ø      Sometimes suggestive. This was so in the case under consideration.

First, the year in which Haggai appeared was suggestive of the people’s

sadness; having no more a king of their own to count from, they reckoned

the date as that of the second year of Darius, i.e. of Darius Hystaspes

(Darajavus of the cuneiform inscriptions), who reigned from B.C. 521 to

B.C. 486. Next, the month — the sixth of their ordinary Jewish year

(corresponding with our August or September), and therefore towards the

close of harvest — ought at least, by the comparatively barren fields they

had reaped, to have reminded them of their chastisement (vs. 10-11),

and so induced in them a spirit of humility. Lastly, the day of the month,

the new moon’s day, which the Law had directed to be kept as a day of

special sacrifice (Numbers 28:11), which their forefathers had observed

as a popular festival (Proverbs 7:20, margin Authorized Version), and

marked by religious gatherings at the local sanctuaries (Isaiah 1:13-14;

II Kings 4:23), and which probably they also celebrated as a holiday,

might have spoken to them of their sin in preserving the outward forms of

religion while neglecting its inward spirit, and perhaps also of their duty,

to attend with true docility to the admonition which proceeded from the

new prophet’s lips.




Ø      Mostly humble. Only once did Divine revelation find an organ that was

truly exalted, viz. when He who, as the only begotten Son, had been in the

Father’s bosom, made Him known (John 1:18) — although even then it

was needful that that Son should empty Himself of His glory and. veil His

Divinity behind a garment of humanity before He could properly

accomplish His work (Philippians 2:6-7). But in all other instances the

instruments selected by Jehovah for the transmission of His will to

mankind are humble and lowly in comparison with Him whose will

they bear (Isaiah 40:18), even when they are angels; how much more

when men, as they mostly are!  And of these it is seldom the most

exalted in rank or wisdom that He selects, but most frequently the

lowliest — persons in obscure stations (I Corinthians 1:26-28), like

Moses when a stranger in Midian (Acts 7:29-31), like Elisha when

holding the plough (I Kings 19:19), or like Amos when among the

herdsmen of Tekoa (Amos 1:1); and persons of unknown family, like

Elijah the Tishbite, or Nahum the Elkoshite, or Habakkuk, of whom

almost nothing is known.


Ø      Always suitable. Men frequently err in choosing instruments to execute

their will; God, never. He can always discern spirits, while men only think

they can. Men judge according to appearance; he, according to the heart.

Haggai was, perhaps, not such a vehicle as man would have pitched upon

to be the medium of a Divine communication. But for God’s purpose he

was fitted beyond most. Though not absolutely certain, it is most probable

he was an old man of eighty years, who had seen the first

temple in its glory (ch.2:3), and who could therefore speak with

greater emphasis and solemnity as one standing on the confines of

eternity, who knew the vanity of earthly greatness, and could appreciate

 the superior excellence and desirability of things inward and spiritual.

Besides, his very name — Haggai, or “Festive” — fitted him to be the

bearer of a message to desponding builders. What they wanted was

inspiriting incitement, encouragement, and hope; and of that there was

a promise in the old man’s designation — Haggai, or “The Festal One” —

especially if this only expressed the habitual disposition of his soul.


Ø      Generally efficient. “It has been the wont of critics, in whose eyes the

prophets were but poets,” writes Pusey, “to speak of the style of Haggai as

‘tame’ and destitute of life and power; but, for all that, it was adapted to

the object sought to be accomplished. Haggai had no need to complain, as

the eloquent Isaiah (first or second), “Lord, who hath believed our report?

and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1); of him it

is recorded that his words awoke an immediate response in his hearers’

hearts, and “they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts,

their God” (v. 14). Man cannot always say of his instruments, however

finely polished, that they will never fail; God can always predict of His,

however rude, that they will certainly succeed.


  • CHOOSE THEIR OWN RECIPIENTS. These are commonly diverse,

as in the present instance. Haggai’s message was directed:


Ø      To Zerubbabel; concerning whom may be noted:


o       His names Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:8), most probably Chaldean or

Babylonian, and perhaps signifying “Worshipper of Fire”

(Gesenius);  Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:1), obviously Hebrew, and

meaning “Born in Babylon;” and Tirshatha (ibid. v. 63;

Nehemiah 7:65), most likely Persian, and equivalent to

“The Feared.”


o       His descent. Described in the text as the son of Shealtiel, who was

      the son of Jeconiah the captive (I Chronicles 3:17, Authorized

      Version), or, if Assir be taken as a proper name (ibid., Authorized

      Version), the grandson of Jeconiah; or again, if Luke’s register

      be followed (Luke 3:27), the son of Neri; — Zerubbabel is

      expressly stated by the chronicler to have been a son of Pedaish,

      a brother of Shealtiel (I Chronicles 3:19). Probably as good a

      solution cf the difficulty as any other is that Jeconiah, according

      to the prophecy of Jeremiah (22:30), had no sons, but only a

      daughter, who married Neri, a descendant of David, and

      became by him the mother of Shealtiel and Pedaiah, who

      accordingly were reckoned sons of Jeconiah, and that

      Shealtiel having died without issue, his brother Pedaiah

      married his widow, and raised up for him a son named



o       His office. As a descendant of the royal house of Judah, he Was

      the recognized head of the Jewish exiles in Babylon, and as such

      was by Cyrus appointed governor of the pilgrim band who

      returned to their native land.


Ø      To Joshua; who also is described by his ancestry as the son of Josedech,

who had been carried away by the Chaldeans to Babylon (I Chronicles

6:15), when his father Zeraiah had been put to death by Nebuchadnezzar

(II Kings 25:18-21; Jeremiah 52:24-27), and by his office as the

high priest of the young community that had returned to Judea and

Jerusalem. As Zerubbabel was their civil, so was Joshua their religious,

head; and “together they are types of Him, the true King and true Priest,

Christ Jesus, who by His resurrection raised again the true temple, His

body, after it had been destroyed.


Ø      To the people. Though Haggai’s words were directed in the first

instance to Zerubbabel and Joshua, they were in the second instance

designed for the whole congregation; and that the whole congregation

received them, whether directly from the prophet’s own lips or indirectly

through those of the prince and the priest, is expressly stated (vs. 12-13).




1. The possibility of revelation.

2. The human medium of inspiration.

3. The greater privilege of the Christian Church in having as a

          revealer of the Divine will, not a human prophet merely, but the

         Incarnate Son.

     4. The higher responsibility which this entails.


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.”

The Lord of hosts. Haggai, as the other prophets, always uses

this formula in enunciating his messages (see note on Amos 9:5).

Trochon justly remarks that this expression is not found in the earlier

books of the Bible — the Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges. If these books

were contemporary with the prophets, the phrase would certainly occur in

them (see a valuable note in the Appendix to Archdeacon Perowne’s

Commentary on Haggai, in ‘The Canibridge Bible for Schools’). This

people; populus iste (Vulgate), with some contempt, as if they were no

longer worthy to be called the Lord’s people (ch. 2:14). It looks as

if they had often before been admonished to proceed with the work, and

had this answer ready. The time is not come; literally, it is not time to

come (compare Genesis 2:5), which is explained by the new clause, the

time that the Lord’s house should be built. The versions shorten the

sentence, rendering, “the time for building the Lord’s house has not come.”

The excuse for their inaction may have had various grounds. They may

have said, reckoning from the final destruction of Jerusalem (B.C. 586),

that the seventy years’ captivity was not complete; that there was still

danger from the neighboring population; that the Persians were adverse to

the undertaking; that the unfruitful season rendered them unable to engage

in such a great work; and that the very fact of these difficulties existing

showed that God did not favor the design.



Procrastination. (v.2)


“This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house

should be built.” There are several ways of accounting for the delay which

occurred in the work of re-erecting the temple in Jerusalem.


1. In part it arose from the returned exiles being preoccupied in seeking to

secure to themselves material prosperity.


2. Then they were daunted by the opposition they had to encounter as they

engaged in this work. The powerful neighboring tribes, being alike

antagonistic to the restoration of Jerusalem as the center of the pure and

unadulterated worship of God, combined to place obstacles in the way of

the repairers of the breaches.


3. Further, they had grown somewhat accustomed to being without the

structure. Comparatively few of them had seen “the first house.”


4. It is to be feared also that they had lost, through the changes they had

experienced, that strong sense of the need of the Divine abiding presence in

their midst. Influenced by such considerations as these, and forgetful that

good is best when soonest wrought,” they kept postponing carrying out

the great undertaking to which they had pledged themselves, and excused

themselves by saying, “The time is not come,” etc. (v. 2). This habit of

delay is far too general, and is not limited to any age or race. It prevails

widely today as in all past times; and in no respect more so than in matters

affecting man’s relation to God. Time was when man was wholly devoted

to his Maker’s praise. God formed him in His own image, holy, spotless, pure; but

he mournfully fell. He who had been the temple of God became a moral waste.

Ichabod (I Samuel 4:21) became inscribed upon the once consecrated

spiritual man.. Every power of the soul became corrupt, every propensity

became drawn to that which is evil. “The gold became dim, and the most

fine gold changed.” And the voice of God calls us to the glorious work of

rebuilding this temple. He has presented to us, in the perfect life of His own

Son, the pattern after which we should seek to raise in ourselves the

superstructure of a holy life, and offers us His gracious aid so that we may

build into our character the noble materials of truth and virtue, wisdom and

love. And it is just at this point that the temptation to delay meets men.


Ø      They are not insensible to the claims of God, nor are they altogether

indifferent about attending to these, but they say, “The time is not

come,” etc. (v. 3).

Ø      They are immersed in other matters at present:

o       the cares of the world;

o       the pursuit of riches;

o       the pleasures of life, absorb them; they are preoccupied just

now; they say, “The time is not come” (v. 3).

Ø      They reason that there is the whole future yet before them, and that

ample opportunity will be given them in due course. So they go on

robbing themselves of “aspirations high and deathless hopes sublime.”


“Procrastination is the thief of time;

Year after year it steals, till all are fled,

And to the mercies of a moment leaves

The vast concerns of an eternal scene.”



Duty Revealed.  (vs. 1-2)


“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, 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.” Haggai is the first of the three prophets who lived

and taught after the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity. It

is generally supposed that he returned with the Hebrew exiles under

Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, in the year B.C. 536. He prophesied

in the reign of Darius Hystaspes, who ascended the Persian throne B.C.521.

He and Zechariah were employed by Jehovah to excite and encourage the

Jews to the rebuilding of the temple. This book consists of four messages,

which were delivered in three months of the year B.C. 620, and all refer to

the work of temple restoration. His style, being somewhat interrogatory,

has much vigor and vehemence. The grand subject of this whole chapter

is duty — duty revealed, duty postponed, duty vindicated. Those two

verses direct us to the revelation of duty. Here we have:


1. The time of its revelation. Every duty has its time, every true work has

its hour. Woe to us if that hour is neglected!

2. The organ of its revelation. Came the word of the Lord by Haggai.” God

speaks to humanity through individual men whom in sovereignty He

appoints. In all ages there are certain great men through whom God speaks

to the world. They are His messengers.

3. The order of its revelation. Haggai had to deliver the message to men

nearest to him, with whom he was most identified, and the men, too, who

had the most power in influencing others. To the greatest man in the state,

Zerubbabel; to the greatest man in the Church, Joshua. I make two remarks

as suggested by this subject.



purpose of Haggai’s mission was, in the name of God, to urge his

countrymen to the fulfillment of a work which was morally incumbent on

them, viz. the rebuilding of the temple. It was the purpose of God that the

temple should be rebuilt, and He required the Jews to do that work. He

could have restored the structure by a miracle or by the hands of others;

but He imposed the building of it on the Jewish people for reasons best

known to Himself. What was the burden of Haggai’s mission is in truth the

burden of the whole Divine revelation duty. It contains, it is true,

histories of facts, effusions of poetry, discussions of doctrine; but the grand

all-pervading substance of the whole is duty; its grand voice teaches, not

merely to believe and feel, but to do; it regards faith and feeling as

worthless unless taken up and embodied in the right act. It presents the

rule of duty, it supplies the helps to duty, it urges the motives to duty. This

fact shows two things.


Ø      That the Bible studies the real well being of man. According to our

constitution, our strength, dignity, and blessedness consist, not merely in

our ideas and emotions, but in our settled character. But what is character?

Not an assemblage of beliefs and emotions, but an assemblage of acts and



Ø      That unpracticed religion is spurious. There is the religion of creed, of

sentimentality, of sacerdotalism, of routine. These are all spurious; it is the

doer of the Word that is blessed; it is the doer of the Divine will that God

approves. “Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them

not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house on sand.”

(Matthew 7:26).



the circumstance that Haggai went directly with the message from God to

the most influential men in the state, to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel,

Governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest.”

The former was one of the head men in the state, the commander-in-chief

at the head of the Jews in their return from their captivity in Babylon; the

latter was the head man in the Church, he was the high priest. It was the

duty of all the Jews to set to the work; but the obligation of these men, on

account of their high position, had an increased force. These men had

greater opportunities of knowing the Divine will, and greater facilities for

carrying it out. The influence of men in high position is a great talent that

God requires to be used. This fact serves two purposes.


Ø      To supply a warning to men in high places. The man who is in a high

position, and disregards his great responsibilities, is more an object of pity

than envy. “Unto whom much is given, of him much will be required.”

(Luke 12:48)  Elevated positions in life invest men with an immense

social power — power which God intended to bless, but which is

often used to curse men.


Ø      A lesson to ministers. Let the ambassadors of Heaven carry their

messages first, if possible, to men in authority. Do not be afraid; none

need your message more; none, if they receive it in faith, can render

you better assistance in the great work of spiritual reformation. It is

common to lecture the poor on duty. How seldom the Divine voice

of duty is made to ring into the hearts of men in authority and power!


3 “Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,”

The formula of v.1 is repeated to give more effect to the Lord’s answer to the lame

excuses for inaction. This emphasis by repetition is common throughout the book.


4 “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this

house lie waste?”  For you, O ye; for you, yourselves; such as ye are (see

Zechariah 7:5). He appeals to their consciences. You can make

yourselves comfortable; you have time and means and industry to expend

on your own private interests, and can you look with indifference on the

house of God lying waste? Your ceiled houses; your houses, and those

cieled — wainscoted and roofed with costly woods (I Kings 7:3, 7;

Jeremiah 22:14), perhaps with the very cedar provided for the

rebuilding of the temple  (Ezra 3:7). Septuagint, ἐν οἴκοις ὑμῶν κοιλοστάθμοις

en oikois humon koilostathmois -  your vaulted houses, or, as St. Cyril explains,

“houses whose doorposts were elaborately adorned with emblems and devices.”

They had naught of the feeling of David (II Samuel 7:2), “I dwell in an

house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.”



Duty Adjourned. (vs. 3-4)


“Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time

for you, O ye, to dwell in your celled houses, and this house lie waste.”  The

seventy years of the Babylonian captivity had passed away. The Babylonian

empire had fallen; and Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire, gave the

Jews permission to return to their land, and commanded them to rebuild

the temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem. Hence fifty thousand captives, with

their menservants and maidservants, went forth, led by Zerubbabel and by

the high priest Joshua, to their own lands. Forthwith on their arrival they

commenced restoring the altar of burnt offering and re-establishing. the

sacrifical worship, and began to lay the foundation of the new temple. The

Samaritans speedily interfered and impeded their progress. Because the

chiefs of Judah would not accept their cooperation in the undertaking they

set themselves to the work of obstruction. They made the hand of the

people of Judah idle, as we read, in frightening them while building, and

hiring counselors against them to frustrate their design, so that the work at

the house of God at Jerusalem ceased and was suspended until the second

year of the reign of King Darius of Persia (Ezra 4:24). Hereupon the

zeal of the Jews so cooled down that they relinquished the work

altogether, and simply began to provide for their own necessities and to

build their own houses, Hence Heaven employs Haggai to rouse them,

again, from their, wickedness. The subject of verses is the adjournment of

duty.  The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.

They do not question the desirableness or the obligation of the work. This

indeed seems to be assumed. During the Captivity, we are told elsewhere

that they hanged their harps upon the willows, and wept when they

remembered Zion.” (Psalm 137:1-2)  Often, perhaps, in those circumstances

did they resolve, should they ever be restored, to rebuild that temple which was

the glory of the land; but now that they are there on the spot, and the ruins

lying before them, their ardor is cooled, and they say, “The time is not

come.” We see three evils coming out here, which, perhaps, are always

connected with the adjourment of duty,


  • COWARDICE. They did not say,” We will not build the temple, we will

leave it to remain in ruins;” they were too cowardly for that, Their

consciences rendered them incapable of making, such a decision. Men who

neglect duty are too cowardly to say, “We will never attend to it, we will

never study the Scriptures or worship God.”


Ø      Sin is cowardice.

Ø      Sin is cowardice because conscience, the truly heroic element, is

ever against it.


  • SELFISHNESS. What was it that prompted them to adjourn this duty?

The answer is at hand, Selfishness. “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in

your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?” They set to work for their

own private interests. Virtually they said, “We must build houses for

ourselves first, for all is in ruin about us; we must cultivate our own land

first; we must attend to our own business, and after all that is completed

we will see to the temple.”


Ø      Selfishness is a perversion of self-love.

Ø      Selfishness is fatal to self-interest.


  • PRESUMPTION. “The time is not come.” How did they know that?

Were they judges of time and seasons? Had they the hardihood to suppose

that circumstances can set aside or modify our obligations? “Go to, now,

ye that say, Today and tomorrow” (James 4:13).


Ø      Such presumption is always guilty. It implies that we know better than

our Maker about times and season.

Ø      Such presumption is always perilous. It treads upon an awful precipice.



The House of the Lord Lying Waste.  (v. 4)


The temple was designed to be the center of hallowed influence to the

Jewish nation. It was the recognized dwelling place of God, the shrine

where, in bright symbol, His glory, was specially revealed. The pious Jew

rejoiced to repair to it, and wherever his lot might be cast he looked

towards it with ardent and longing desire. The desecration of it by the

introduction of idolatrous practices into its courts had materially

contributed to the nation’s collapse. It was of the utmost importance,

therefore, that the work of its restoration should be pressed forward with

all zest, now that the captives had been permitted to return, and at first it

seemed as though this course would have been pursued, but unhappily they

soon allowed their zeal to flag, and year after year passed by and nothing

was done. The house of the Lord lay “waste.” The Divine Teacher, when

He came to usher in a new dispensation, declared that God is a Spirit, and is

to be worshipped “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). He taught that

place has but little to do with worship, and that there is no spot we may not

consecrate by our praises and prayers, and render to us “hallowed ground.”

Still, He constantly resorted to the temple, and we read of His apostles how

that they went up to the temple “at the hour of prayer” (Acts 3:1). The

erection and maintenance of Christian sanctuaries is most thoroughly in

harmony with His will, and is calculated to promote the truest interests of

the race. Close all such sanctuaries, and:


(1) good men would be left to sigh for the holy fellowship they had lost;

(2) spiritual darkness would steal over the land;

(3) the streams of true benevolence would rapidly diminish;

(4) men in general, losing sight of the common relationship they sustain to

the Eternal, would also overlook the interest they ought to feel in each

other’s weal;

(5) iniquity would pass unreproved, and vice unchecked. As lovers of God,

our country, and our fellow men, we do well to sustain Christian

sanctuaries, and not to allow them to “lie waste.” Notice, “the house of the

Lord” may lie waste”



NEGLECTED. There should be correspondence in respect of beauty and

adornment, comfort and cleanliness, between the houses in which we live

and the sanctuary in which we meet for worship, and where this is lacking,

the want indicates a wrong state of mind and heart.





INCURRED IN ITS MAINTENANCE. Giving should be regarded as an

act of worship. “Bring an offering, and come into His courts” (Psalm 96:8).

Contributions for the maintenance of the worship of God ought not

to be regarded in the light of charitable gifts, but as the discharge of

bounden obligation.



far too much of “waste” in this respect. The growing habit of attending

only one of the services on the sabbath, and none during the week days,

needs to be checked Personal influence should be brought more to bear

upon the inhabitants of a locality with a view to securing their presence.

Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1).




should be marked by culture, variety, heart; the worshippers should throw

their whole souls into all its engagements, and render each part of the

service “heartily” and as “unto the Lord.”  (Colossians 3:23)



view to the prevention of this, let us “pray for Jerusalem,” that its services

may yield comfort to the mourning and guidance to the perplexed, and that

through these the cold in heart may regain the fervor of their “first love,”

(Revelation 2:4) and “the dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) be

quickened to a new and heavenly life. “Save now, O Lord; O Lord, we

beseech thee send now prosperity” (Psalm 118:25); “Repair the waste

places of Zion  (Isaiah 58:12); “Build thou the walls of Jerusalem

(Psalm 51:18).


5 “Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.”

Consider; literally, set your heart upon (so v. 7; ch.2:15, 18). Your ways.

What ye have done, what ye have suffered, your present projects, and the

consequences thereof.



The Mistakes of the Temple Builders: a Warning.  (vs. 2-5)



imagined the time had not come for them to build the Lord’s house,

whereas it had fully arrived.


Ø      What led them to suppose or say so, though not stated, may easily be



o       They were disheartened by the opposition they encountered

      (see next head).

o       The original grant obtained from Cyrus (Ezra 3:7) was probably

                                    then exhausted.

o       They had been interdicted by a decree of Artaxerxes, or of

      pseudo- Smerdis (ibid. ch. 4:23-24). And

o       they were suffering from bad trade and worse harvests (v. 6),

      and consequently were unable to contribute towards the expense

      of the building.


Ø      The indications that the time had fully come were so plain that they

                        should hardly have been misread.


o       The seventy years during which the whole land of Judah was to lie

                                    desolate, and its inhabitants should serve the King of Babylon

                                    (Jeremiah 25:11-12), and at the end of which the exiles should

                                    return to their own land (ibid. ch.29:10), had manifestly rolled by.

o       The very deliverer of whom Isaiah had spoken by name, Cyrus

                                    (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1), had appeared, and opened the two-leaved

                                    gates of Babylon (Ezra 1:2-3).

o       The sacred vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had carried off to

      Babylon (II Kings 24:13), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 28:3) predicted

      would again be brought from Babylon, had actually been

      delivered over into the hands of Zerubbabel by Cyrus (Ezra 1:8).

o       The bad harvests and depressed trade from which they were

      suffering were a manifest token of the Divine displeasure on

      account of their negligence, and were no real excuse for their

      illiberal conduct, since they could obviously find money enough

      to build ceiled mansions for themselves.

o       The decree of Artaxerxes only forbad the building of the city

      (Ezra 4:21), not of the temple; and even though it had been

      directed against the latter, Artaxerxes himself no longer

      reigned, having been driven from the throne he had usurped,

      and his place having been occupied by Darius Hystaspes, so that

      the repressive edict, had they been anxious, might easily have been

      revoked. This mistake of the builders has often been committed;

                                    as e.g. by Moses in Egypt, who misread the signs of the times,

                                    and thought the hour had struck for Israel’s deliverance when it

                                    had not (Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:25); by the Jewish rulers in

                                    Christ’s day, who failed to discern in the Galilaean Prophet the

                                    manifest tokens of Messiah (Matthew 16:3-4); by the city of

                                    Jerusalem, which knew not the day of her visitation (Luke 19:42);

                                    and by the present day unbeliever, who cannot see that “now is

                                    the accepted time, and now is the day of salvation” 

                                    (II Corinthians 6:2).




Ø      The nature and source of this opposition is described in the Book of

                        Ezra (4). Prevented from taking part in the building of the temple, the

                        Samaritan settlers first “weakened the hands of the builders,” next

                        hired counselors against them,” and ultimately obtained an interdict

                        commanding them to cease. It was certainly annoying, but:


Ø      They should not have been so easily discouraged. No enterprise of any

                        moment was ever carried through without encountering difficulties and

                        frequently hostilities, and without calling for patient perseverance in well

                        doing. How otherwise would Israel have been brought from Egypt at the

                        first, or Judah from Babylon a few years before?


Ø      The same mistake is committed still by those who imagine the spiritual

                        temple of Jehovah, either in the individual soul or in the Church as a

                        whole, can be built without difficulty, without experiencing resistance

                        from enemies within and without, or in any other way than by

                        indomitable perseverance.


Ø      Never despairand Never give inshould be the twin mottoes of

                        every one engaged in temple building for God — of the individual

                        believer, of the Christian minister, of the foreign missionary.



THE SPIRITUAL AND RELIGIOUS. The ordinary occupations of life

had more attraction for them than the duties of religion. To assert that they

cared nothing for religion would, perhaps, be wrong, since what had

brought them back from Babylon, where for the most part they had

comfortable settlements, was a true feeling of piety no less than an ardent

spirit of patriotism. Yet were they not long back upon their much loved

ancestral soil before they showed they had brought back with them from

Babylon a passion stronger than even their love for religion, namely,

devotion to the earthly and material pursuits of life. Their zeal in temple

building was quickly damped, but not so their enthusiasm in plowing and

sowing their fields, in working for wages, in erecting magnificent mansions,

sumptuous palaces like those they had seen and perhaps lived in in

Babylon, with walls of polished stone and roofs of cedar. With much ease

they could see that “the time for building God’s house was not come,” as

they supposed; they had large difficulty in perceiving it was not the season

to attend to their ordinary avocations. So do many on becoming Christians

carry over with them into their new life “passions for things material and

temporal,” which, while religious feeling is fresh, are kept in abeyance, but

which, the moment this begins to abate, assert themselves to the hindrance

of what is properly religious work, and to the detriment of the soul’s

religious life. This constitutes a third mistake against which Christians

should be on their guard.



THE GLORY OF GOD. One cannot help thinking that, had the building of

the Lord’s house been a matter that concerned their own glory, comfort, or

interest, they would not have suffered it to lie waste as they did; but only

the honor of the Deity was involved, and what was that to their material

advantage and temporal felicity? Was it not of greater moment that they

themselves should be well housed, well fed, well clothed, than that even

God, who dwelleth not in temples made with hands, and requireth not to

be worshipped as though He needed anything, should be well lodged? If it

came to the worst, they could do without a temple altogether, could

worship in the open air, as they had done since coming from Babylon, but

they could not well do without well stocked farms and finely celled houses.

And so they let the work, which had only God’s glory as its motive, drop,

and applied themselves to that which contemplated man’s or their own

material good. Is it wrong to find in this a parable for Christians? Is not the

essence of Christianity just this — that a man, like Christ whom He follows,

shall seek, not His own glory, but God’s; shall do, not His own will, but the

will of Him who hath sent Him into the world? Yet among professing

Christians are those who cannot see beyond their own little selves, and

who imagine that a man’s chief duty upon earth, even after having become

a Christian, is to do the best he can for himself, whereas it is to do the best

he can for God. Acting on the former principle leads to spiritual blindness,

to cowardice, to this-worldism, all of which are deplorable mistakes; acting

on the latter.principle terminates in no such disastrous results, but brings

with it to the individual so acting spiritual insight, moral courage, and

heavenly — mindedness three qualities which ennoble all by whom they

are possessed.




1. The duty of discerning the signs of the times.

2. The necessity of combining courage with forethought.

3. The propriety of guarding against the disturbing influence of

    supposed self-interest.


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.”  Their labors for years past had lacked the

Divine blessing.  Though they had fine houses to dwell in, they had been visited

with scanty harvests and weak bodily health. Ye have sown much, and bring in

little; but to bring in little (Hebrew). And this infinitive absolute is

continued in the following clauses, giving remarkable force to the words,

and expressing an habitual result. We see from ch. 2:15-17 that

these unfruitful seasons had visited them during all the continuance of their

negligence (Deuteronomy 28:38). But ye have not enough. The food

which they ate did not satisfy them; their bodies were sickly and derived no

strength from the food which they took (Leviticus 26:26; Hosea 4:10)

or from the wine which they drank (see note on Micah 6:14). But

there is none warm. Perhaps the winters were unusually rigorous, or their

infirm health made their usual clothing insufficient to maintain their bodily

heat. To put it into a bag with holes. A proverbial saying. The money

gained by the hired laborer vanished as if he had never had it, and left no

trace of benefit.


(Vs. 7-11)  The prophet urges the people to work zealously at the building; only

thus could they hope for the removal of their present disasters.


7 “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.”

(See note on v. 5.) The repetition of the call to reflection is needed (compare

Philippians 3:1). Former experience opens the way to the injunction in v. 8.



Considering One’s Ways.  (vs. 5,7)


  • AN EXALTED PRIVILEGE. The faculties of introspection and

reflection, which enable man to consider his ways, constitute a lofty

endowment, which places him incontestably at the apex of creation.


Ø      It distinguishes him from the lower animals. These may be possessed of

capabilities which enable them to perform actions in some degree

resembling the fruits of intelligence — it may even be conceded are, in

some instances at least, endowed with faculties of memory, imagination,

and judgment; but they are wholly devoid of the powers of self-

introspection and reflection here ascribed to man. Of the noblest of brute

beasts it still remains to be proved that it ever said to itself, “I communed

with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search” (Psalm 77:6);

or “I thought on my ways” (Psalm 119:59).


Ø      It sets him in the neighborhood of God. The Hebrew psalmist

conceived the ideal man as a being only a little short of Divinity (Psalm

8:5); and though the basis on which he rested this conception was man’s

manifest dominion over the creatures, yet this arose, as he well knew, out

of the fact that man, as distinguished from the lower creatures, had been

made in the Divine image (Genesis 1:26); which again, in part at least,

consisted in his capacity to consider his ways, or to look before and behind

in whatever way he was treading. “Known unto God are all his works

 from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18); “He declareth the end

from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10); and though the Preacher affirms that

no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to

the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), yet to each man has been granted the ability

to consider the way in which he himself goeth!  (Ecclesiastes 5:1), and in

this high capacity of pondering the path of his feet he possesses an

endowment that in him a finite being corresponds to the Omniscience of



  • AN URGENT DUTY. The consideration of one’s ways required by

two things.


Ø      Divine commandment. In addition to the twice-repeated exhortation

here addressed to the builders, the admonition frequently occurs in

Scripture (Psalm 4:4; Proverbs 4:26; I Corinthians 11:28;

II Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 6:4) to commune with one’s own heart,

to search and try one’s ways, to examine carefully into one’s spiritual

condition. And this to a good man is enough to constitute an imperative

obligation. “Where the word of a king is” — much more where the word

of the King of kings is — “there is power.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:4)


Ø      Present safety. No one can travel long securely or comfortably along the

path of life who does not ponder well at the outset from what point the

course he is pursuing starts, who does not frequently pause to notice

whither it is tending, and who does not always have an eye upon the

where and the how it shall terminate. The man that lives purely by

haphazard, that rushes on blindfold into whatever enterprise he takes

in hand, whether in business or religion, is sure to come to grief, if not

to fall into the ditch.


Ø      Future responsibility. There might be less need for attending to this duty

if the issues of our ways and actions always exhausted themselves on earth

and in time. But they do not. “We must all appear before the judgment

seat of Christ, and give an account of the deeds done in the body,

whether these be good or whether they be bad” (II Corinthians 5:10).


UNSEEN BEYOND!  Every man is making his future by the, ways

 he is traveling and the deeds he is doing in the present.


  • A PROFITABLE EXERCISE. Apart altogether from the duty of it,

the advantages to be derived from it should go far to recommend this



Ø      Self-knowledge. No one will ever attain to a trustworthy or valuable

acquaintance with his own heart who does not frequently undertake a

review of “the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23) that proceed from it. Yet

next to the knowledge of God and Christ, which constitute the essence

of “life eternal” (John 17:2), the knowledge of self is the highest

attainment to which one can rise.


Ø      Moral discernment. The power of distinguishing between right and

wrong, which belongs to all as an intuitive endowment, is nevertheless

susceptible of improvement or deterioration, according as it is exercised

or neglected. It may be clarified, intensified, quickened, strengthened;

or it may be dulled, darkened, weakened, deadened. Through diligent

personal culture the soul may become sensitive to nicest distinctions

of right and wrong as an aneroid barometer to smallest variations in

the atmosphere; or, through want of use, it may become hard as a

fossilized organism or as a petrified log of wood.


Ø      Spiritual improvement. No one is likely to make progress in religion

without an intimate acquaintance with his own ways. Without this one

may even not suspect that his religion is defective. In proportion as one

knows what in himself is dark and needs illumining, or feeble and

requires strengthening, or low and demands upraising, or deficient and

calls for supplementing, or wrong and wants correcting, will one

advance in moral and spiritual attainment.




1. The dignity of man.

2. The responsibility of life.

3. The duty of circumspection.


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.”

Go up to the mountain. The hill country in the neighborhood

of Jerusalem, whence by their own personal exertions they might procure

material for the building. The temple mount is certainly not meant, as if

they were to bring wood from it. Nor can Lebanon be intended, as in

Ezra 3:7; for the injunction looks to an immediate actual result, and in

their depressed circumstances they were scarcely likely to interest the

Sidonians and Tyrians to provide cedar for them. There was abundance of

wood close at hand, and the “kings forest” (Nehemiah 2:8) was in the

immediate neighborhood of Jerusalem. There is no mention of stone,

probably because the foundations had long been laid, and the ruins of the

old temple supplied material for the new one; and, indeed, stone was to be

had in abundance everywhere; or it may be that the prophet names merely

one opening for their renewed activity, as a specimen of the work required

from them. Not costly offerings were desired, but a willing mind. I will be

glorified; I will glorify myself by showering blessings on the house and the

people, so that the Hebrews themselves and their neighbors may own that

I am among them (compare Exodus 14:4; Leviticus 10:3; Isaiah 66:5).


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.”

He shows the real cause of the calamities that had befallen them.

Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little. Emphatic infinitive, as in

v. 6. “To look for much, and behold! little.” They fixed their expectations

upon a rich harvest, and they reaped less than they had sown (Isaiah 5:10).

And when they had stored this miserable crop in their barns, I did

blow upon it; or, did blow it away (ἐξεφύσησαexephusaesaI blew it away –

Septuagint), dissipated it as if it were mere chaff, so that it perished. Doubtless

they ascribed the meagerness of their crops to natural causes, and

would not see the judicial nature of the infliction. The prophet brings the

truth home to their conscience by the stern question, Why? And he

answers the question for them, speaking with God’s authority. Because of

mine house that is waste. The reason already given in v. 4, etc., is

repeated and enforced. And (while) ye run. Ye are indifferent to the

miserable condition of the house of God, while ye haste with all diligence

to your own houses for business or pleasure, being entirely absorbed in

worldly interests, or eager only to adorn and beautify your own habitations.

Or, your zeal is all expended on your own private dwellings.


10 “Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is

stayed from her fruit.”  Over you. This would be a reference to Deuteronomy

28:23. But the preposition is probably not local, but means rather, “on your

account,” i.e. on account of your sin, as Psalm 44:22. This is not

tautological after the preceding “therefore,” but more closely defines and

explains the illative. Is stayed from dew; hath stayed itself from dew;

withholds not only rain, but even dew (compare Zechariah 8:12). On the

importance of dew in the climate of Palestine, see note on Micah 5:7.

The dews generally are remarkably heavy, and in the summer months take

the place of rain. Dr. Thomson speaks of the dew rolling in the morning off

his tent like rain (‘Land and the Book,’ p. 491). The earth is stayed from

her fruit; hath stayed her fruit; according to the threat (Deuteronomy 11:17).


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 labor of the hands.”  I called for a drought.

So Elisha says (II Kings 8:1) that “the Lord hath called for a famine.” There is a

play of words in the Hebrew: as they had let the Lord’s house lie “waste” (church)

(vs. 4,9), so the Lord punished them with “drought” (choreb). The Septuagint and

Syriac, pointing differently, translate this last word “sword,” but this is not

suitable for the context, which speaks of the sterility of the land only. The

land, in contradistinction to the mountains, is the plain country. Nothing

anywhere was spared. All the labor of the hands (Psalm 128:1-6).

All that they had effected by long and wearisome toil in the cornfield,

the vineyard, etc. (compare Hosea 2:9; Joel 1:10).




Hard Times.  (vs. 6-11)


  • A FREQUENT OCCURRENCE. Poor harvests and profitless trade,

famine and idleness, lack of bread and want of employment, nothing to eat,

and nothing to do. The two commonly go together. Examples of famines

were in ancient times those which occurred in Canaan (Genesis 12:10),

in Egypt (Genesis 41:54), in Samaria (I Kings 17:1; II Kings 6:25),

in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 52:6); in modern times those which have

taken place in India, China, and other parts of Asia.


  • A SORROWFUL EXPERIENCE. When the husbandman has

labored, and, perhaps through long continued drought, has obtained an

altogether insufficient return for his labors. When through deficient

harvests the people of a country are reduced to a state of semi-starvation.

When through this failure in the sources of wealth the wheels of a nation’s

industry are stopped. When strong men who would willingly work can find

no work to do. When wages already scanty are eaten up by exorbitant prices.




Ø      Are of Gods sending. To say that bad harvests and dull trade are the

results of natural (physical and social) laws does not show them to be

disconnected with God. The Almighty is behind both nature and society,

Jehovah claimed that the state of matters in Judah after the exile was his



Ø      Have their occasions, if not their causes, in sin. Haggai’s countrymen

had been made to suffer because of their:

o       indifference to religion and

o       devotion to self-interest (v. 9).

Were modern nations to reflect more deeply, they might discover

connections between their characters and their conditions, their sins

and their sufferings.


  • A SALUTARY DISCIPLINE. Intended as all chastisement is:


Ø      To arrest attention. Inconsiderateness a principal sin of men and nations.


Ø      To convince of sin. A remarkable proof of depravity that moral

perceptions require to be awakened by physical corrections.


Ø      To excite repentance. Though confessions under the lash are not the

same thing as penitence, yet they may and should be, and often are,

accompanied by penitence.


Ø      To promote amendment. Though punishment is not exclusively

reformatory in its character, yet it is mostly (on earth at least) inflicted

with design to benefit the sufferer.




1. Religion in individuals and nations the best defense against hard times.

2. Repentance and prayer the best resort in bad times.



The Stirring Appeal.  (vs. 3-11)


It must not be supposed that, for purposes of revelation, there was any

suspension of the powers of the men who were honored of God in being

the medium of communicating a knowledge of His will; rather there was the

retention of their own individual peculiarities and natural gifts, the Divine

Spirit operating through these, and turning them to the most profitable

account. One beauty of the Bible lies in the fact that, whilst upon the

writings of each of its contributors there is unmistakably the impress of the

operation of the Spirit of God, there is likewise throughout the whole clear

indications of the preservation of those natural endowments which the

respective writers possessed, and hence the remarkable variety in style and

form of presentation meeting us in the Holy Word, and which constitutes

one great charm of the volume. (II Peter 1:19-21)  Viewing this particular book

of Scripture from this human standpoint, biblical writers have described it as

being inferior in respect of literary merit as compared with other prophetical

writings; and it must be granted that we find lacking here “the poetical

swing” and “the finished beauty” characteristic of “the earlier prophetical

diction.” The circumstances, however, under which he gave utterance to

his message will account for this. It did not devolve upon him to any

extent, as it had done upon his predecessors, to make prophetic

announcements concerning the future age; his simple mission was to

stimulate and stir a lethargic people to renewed action, to reprove them for

their neglect of solemn duty, and to impel them to fulfill their trust. And

whatever there may be lacking here of poetic genius, the picture presented

to us of this noble-hearted man standing “in grey-haired might” amidst the

ruins of Jerusalem, and, strong in conviction that the favor and blessing of

Jehovah was the great essential in order to the happiness of his people,

urging them to knowledge Him in all their ways, and without further delay

to rear His sanctuary, is one truly beautiful, and which we could have ill

spared from these holy records. Consider his stirring appeal.


  • HIS SUMMONS TO REFLECTION. “Consider your ways” (vs. 5,

7); i.e. “Set your heart upon your ways” — your conduct, actions, designs,

purposes. Thoughtlessness is the source of so much evil. (I recommend

Isaiah 1 – Spurgeon Sermon – To the Thoughtless – this website – CY –

2015) Men do not always intend to do wrong or to fail in respect of duty,

but they do not “give heed.” They allow their minds to wander into other

courses, and to be preoccupied with other matters.  (Jesus said, “he that

gathereth not with me scattereth.”  - Matthew 12:30)


“Evil is wrought by want of thought,

As well as want of heart.”

It is in view of men’s highest interests, then, that God by His providential

dealings, or the ministry of His servants, or the inward voice of conscience,

says to them at times, “Consider your ways.” We should consider:


Ø      Whether our ways are true and right.

Ø      How they stand affected to the claims which God has upon us.

Ø      The motives by which we are being influenced.

Ø      The results to which our actions are tending, whether the sowing

is such as will yield a harvest of good.


The momentous importance of the admonition is seen in its repetition here.

Man is wondrously free. He can choose good or evil. This freedom

increases his responsibility, and the sense of this should lead to frequent

self-examination. “Let each man prove his own work” (Galatians 6:4).



ARRESTED ATTENTION. Their great excuse for the unwarrantable

delay which had taken place in the work of the temple was the hardness of

the times; and in his stimulating address Haggai kept this excuse before his

mind, and completely exposed to them its hollowness and swept it away by

setting before them two important facts.


Ø      He brought home to them a sense of their own inconsistency. Hard

though the times were, the fact remained that in these hard times they had

built for themselves durable dwellings, and had enriched these with costly

adornments; and surely if they could do all this for themselves, they might

have done something by way of proceeding with the erection of the house

of the Lord (v. 4). Clearly they had lacked not so much the ability as the

disposition to do their duty.


Ø      Admitting the severity of the times, Haggai pointed out that the way in

which to have improved these would have been by their discharging more

faithfully their duty to their God. In vivid language he described the

depressed state of things then prevailing (v. 6), but his contention was

that God had visited them with such adverse experiences in retribution.

They had forgotten His claims, and had selfishly cared only for their own

interests; and He, knowing their hearts and observing their ways, had

withheld from them the dews of heaven, and had caused drought to

prevail, that by failure and loss they might be led to reflection and to a

truer and more devoted life (vs. 9-11). When the times are hard — trade

slack and commercial depression prevailing — men too often begin

retrenchment by withholding from God His due, and long before they

sacrifice a single luxury of life will they plead inability to sustain His

cause.   Wiser far would it be for them to give full recognition to Him

and to His claims, and, whilst thus honoring Him, to look to Him for

His blessing and the renewal of the temporal blessings of His





mountain,” etc. (v. 8). This stirring appeal of the prophet was made on

the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (v. 1), i.e. the new

moon’s day. That day was a special day amongst the people. A festal

sacrifice was offered (Numbers 28:11-15), and a solemn assembly of

the people at the sanctuary took place (Isaiah 1:13; II Kings 4:23).

On this occasion, therefore, we may suppose the people as gathered

together on the site of the temple, the bare foundations of which silently

testified against their inertness, and the prophet appearing amongst them,

addressing words of stern reproof to them, and then bidding them without

longer delay go to the mountains and fetch the cedars, and build forthwith

the house for God. Such he declared to be the will of God, obedience to

which, on their part, would yield pleasure to the Most High, and bring

glory to His Name, and would result in the promotion of their own

temporal and spiritual well being (v. 8).



                        Duty Divinely Vindicated (vs. 5-11)


“Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.  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.”  Their efforts to improve their

secular condition were all unsuccessful!  The ground brought forth little.  Why was

this?  Not because they did not work; not because either the soil or the seed was

bad.  The reason was a moral onethey neglected the great duty that Heaven

had enjoined upon them, the rebuilding of the temple.  They neglected this, and

the curse of Heaven rested as a mildew upon all their operations.  Had they right

discharged this duty, prosperity would have attended to all their efforts.  Real

success in any labor, so as to obtain happiness, depends upon THE SPIRITUAL

STATE OF THE SOUL!  This is a point which has, perhaps seldom occupied

your attention; nevertheless, it is a point of overwhelming moment.  It is common

for men to refer success to industry, ingenuity, fortune, luck, or some such cause;

the real cause of success or failure is to be referred to the moral state of the soul!

They were selfish motives that brought secular disasters to the Jews now.

The verses teach us that duty is vindicated by the Divine government. We

offer two remarks here.



MOTIVES THAT ACTUATE MEN. Men are governed in everything by

motive. Motive is the mainspring that keeps the world in action; motive is

the fountain from which all the streams of life proceed; motive is the germ

from which springs every branch and leaf of the great tree of character. We

judge each other from appearance; God, from motives. God sees theft,

blasphemy, and all other crimes where they have never been expressed in

words or acts. This DIVINE INSPECTION of motives argues three things.


Ø      The necessity of moral reformation in the world. If all pertaining to

human life springs from motive, and the motives of the world are

depraved, then the grand necessity of the world is REFORMATION!

Knowledge, civilization, refinement, social older, mercantile prosperity,

wholesome legislation, — these will be of no real service where the

motives are bad. Hence the Great Reformer has said, “Ye must be

born again.”  (John 3:7)  To accomplish this REFORMATION

is the great  aim of THE GOSPEL!   It is the fire to burn up false

motives, it is the axe to strike the upas (poisonous tree) at the roots.


Ø      The necessity for attending more to the spiritual than the formal in the

Church. It is not conformity to standards of faith, however scriptural,

attention to rituals, however aesthetic and impressive, the repetition of

prayers, however beautiful in language, devout in sentiment, and correct in

doctrine; it is not, in fact, in any externalism that religion consists or that

God delights; it is in holy motive. “Neither circumcision.., nor

uncircumcision,” etc. (Galatians 5:6). In all true worship man is at once

the temple, the sacrifice, and the priest. When will the time come that men

shall regard the Church, not as a piece of timber carved into certain forms

by the hand of art, remaining the same from age to age, but as a living tree,

working itself by the power of its own life into living forms with every

season that passes, over it?


Ø      The possibility of solemn disclosures on the last day. Here men conceal

their real hearts from each other. We only know each other after the flesh.

Sometimes here Providence takes off the mask from those whom we

thought friends, and we recoil from their hideousness with horror. At the

LAST DAY ALL WILL BE UNCOVERED!   “The hidden things of

darkness will be brought to light” (I Corinthians 4:5). What a revelation

on that day!   Jesus said, “There is nothing covered, that shall not be

 revealed, neither hid, that shall not be known.”  (Luke 12:2)



MOTIVES OF ACTION. “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little.”

The passage shows two ways in which God opposes the labor of selfish



Ø      He neutralizes the results of their labor. “I will blow upon it.” The

man may realize the means which he thought would make him happy;

God will hinder it from doing so. One selfish man may get wealth in

abundance; another may acquire vast treasures of knowledge; another,

immense power in society; yet in all cases there may be unhappiness,

because God “blows” upon the whole. In fact, nothing can make a

 selfish man happy.


Ø      He renders ineffective the materials of their labur. Labor always

employs three things — agent, instrument, and materials. The materials of

labor are here specified — “light,” “air,” “water,” “earth.” On these men

operate. Out of these we weave our clothing, of them we construct our

dwellings. God acts upon these and renders them all ineffective for

happiness. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the

earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land.”

                        (v. 11)

o       God directs the universe; not necessity, not chance.

o       God directs the universe for mind.

o       God directs the universe so as to meet the state of every heart.

“To the pure all things are pure.”   (Titus 1:15)


§ 3. The appeal meets with respect and attention, and for a time the people apply

themselves diligently to the work.  (vs. 12-15)


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.”  All the remnant of the people (ch. 2:2); i.e. the

people who had returned from the Captivity, who are technically named

“the remnant” is being only a small portion of all Israel (Isaiah 10:21-22;

Zechariah 8:6; Micah 2:12). Others, not so suitably, understand

by the expression, all the people beside the chiefs (v. 14). Obeyed;

rather, listened unto. The active obedience is narrated in v. 14. And the

words. The prophet’s words are the voice of the Lord; and the people

heeded the message which the Lord had commissioned him to give. Did

fear. They should that true religion which the Bible calls “the fear of the

Lord.” They saw their faults, perhaps dreaded some new chastisement, and

hastened to obey the prophet’s injunction (Ezra 5:1-2).


13 “Then spake Haggai the LORD’s messenger in the LORD’s

message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.”

Then spake Haggai. God hastens to accept their repentance

and to assure them of His protection. The Lord’s messenger. Haggai alone

of the prophets uses this title of himself, implying that he came with

authority and bearing a message from the Lord (compare Numbers 20:16,

where the word “angel” is by some applied to Moses). Malachi’s very

name expresses that he was the Lord’s messenger, and he uses the term of

the priest (Malachi 2:7), and of John the Baptist, and of Messiah

Himself (Malachi 3:1). In the Lord’s message (I Kings 13:18). In

the special message of consolation which he was commissioned to deliver.

The Septuagint rendering, ἐν ἀγγέλοις Κυρίουen anggelois Kuriou -  

among the angels of the Lord, led some to fancy that Haggai was an angel

in human form, which opinion is refuted by Jerome, in loc. I am with you

(ch. 2:4). A brief message comprised in two words, “I with you,” yet full of

comfort, promising God’s presence, protection, aid, and blessing (compare

Genesis 28:15; 39:2; Joshua 1:5; Jeremiah 1:8;  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,”  The Lord stirred up, etc. The Lord excited the courage,

animated the zeal, of the chiefs of the nation, who had themselves

succumbed to the prevailing indifference, and had suffered their ardor to

be quenched (compare I Chronicles 5:26; II Chronicles 21:16; Ezra 1:1,5).

They came and did work. They went up to the temple and began

to do the work which they had so long neglected.


15 “In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of

Darius the king.” The first admonition had been made on the first day of this

month; the three intervening weeks had doubtless been spent in planning and

preparing materials, and obtaining workmen from the neighboring villages. The

note of time is introduced to show how prompt was their obedience, and the

exact time when “they came and did work in the house of the Lord” (v.14).

Some, on insufficient grounds, consider this clause to be an interpolation from

ch. 2:10, 18, with a change of “ninth” to “sixth month.” In the Latin Vulgate,

in Tischendorf’s Septuagint, and in many editions of the Hebrew Bible, the

whole of this verse is wrongly annexed to the following chapter. St. Jerome

arranges it as in the Authorized Version. It is possible that, as St. Cyril takes it,

the words, in the second year of Darius the king, ought to begin ch. 2.

The king’s reign has been already noted in v. 1, and it seems natural to affix

the date at the commencement of the second address.



                                     Ancient Temple Builders.  (vs. 12-15)


  • UNIVERSAL ACTIVITY. “They came and did work” — all of them:

Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, and all the remnant of

the people.” There was not an idler amongst them. Every person was

engaged at something in connection with the building, The spectacle was:


Ø      The reproduction of an old scene, when in the wilderness of Sinai,

orders having been issued for the construction of a tabernacle, “as many

as were willing hearted came, both men and women,” and contributed

 their aid to the work (Exodus 35:20-29).


Ø      The foreshadowing of a later scene, when the infant Church of the New

Testament was assembled in the upper room, and “there came a sound

from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, which filled all the house

where they were sitting,” and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,

and all began to speak with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance

(Acts 2:1-4).


Ø      The picture of a (possibly) present scene. What is wanted is the carrying

over of this scene of universal activity into the Christian Church, and the

spectacle of every professing disciple of Jesus Christ contributing his

quota of work to the building of that spiritual edifice which is today

being erected on the foundation of the apostle and prophets, Jesus Christ

Himself being the chief Cornerstone, for the inhabitation of God through

the Spirit!  (Ephesians 2:20-22). “The kingdom of heaven is as a man

taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his

servants, and to every man his work” (Mark 13:34).


  • CHEERFUL WILLINGNESS. “They all came.” Not one required to

be coerced or in any way dragged forth against his will. Nobody skulked or

came forward with a grudge, but each was readier than his neighbor. So

was it in the erection of the tabernacle; so should it be in the building of the

Christian Church. Yet how to realize this ideal in the latter case is one of

the problems o(the day.


Ø      The backwardness of Christians to engage in specifically Christian

work is a too evident fact. It may arise with some from constitutional

timidity, with others from undue depreciation of their own ability, with a

few from inability to discern a sphere suitable to their supposed gifts, but

with most (it is to be feared) from a depressed condition of religion in

 the soul. The cure for the first may be found in the grace of God

(II Corinthians 12:9); for the second, in a high conception of God’s

ability --  “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me!”

(Philippians 4:13); for the third, in doing the first thing that comes to

hand (Ecclesiastes 9:10); and for the fourth, in a quickening of the soul

by the Holy Ghost (Psalm 80:18).


Ø      The forwardness of Christians to engage in Christian work might be

expected on many grounds. Gratitude to God, if nothing else, should

constrain them (Psalm 116:12). Love to Christ might impel them

(II Corinthians 5:14-15). The nobility of the work might attract them; it

would be walking in the footsteps of Christ (Acts. 10:38). The splendor

of the reward might induce them (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 25:40;

I Corinthians 15:58; Revelation 2:10; 14:13). The clamant need

there is for such work might move them (I John 5:19). The good it

would do might urge them (Titus 3:8).


  • ARDENT ENTHUSIASM. They came and did work. Not merely

putting in the time,” as the workmen’s phrase is; or simply dragging on

with heartless indifference; or hurrying up the job with utmost, speed and

in careless fashion, anxious to get it done, no matter how; but toiling

honestly and earnestly, with a business like energy and determination,

doing good work, and doing it with a will. (as unto God and not unto

men” -  Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:23)  Such had been the manner in

which the tabernacle makers worked; such should be the style of working

in the Christian Church.


Ø      The Founder of the Christian Church was an enthusiastic Worker. From

the commencement of His ministry to its close (Luke 9:51; 12:50), Jesus

 was consumed with a burning devotion to His work of glorifying God

and blessing men.  (John 2:17)


Ø      The apostles and early preachers of the Christian Church were

enthusiastic workers. The eleven (Mark 16:20); the twelve (Acts 5:42);

Paul (Philippians 3:13-14); Apollos (Acts 18:25); Epaphroditus

(Philippians 2:27).


Ø      The Christian Church has in almost every age possessed workers of at

like spirit. Ministers, like Augustine, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Cyril,

Calvin, Knox, Latimer, Baxter, Wesley, Chalmers; missionaries, like St.

Augustine, St. Columba, St. Aidan, St. Mungo, Brainerd, Martyn, Carey,

Williams, Moffat, Livingstone, C.H Spurgeon, Dwight Moody,

Billy Sunday; private Christians, like the late Earl of Shaftesbury and

others.  (In our day Billy Graham, Charles Stanley and many others –

CY – 2015)


  • INDOMITABLE PERSEVERANCE. Too soon discouraged on the

first occasion by the angry speeches and malicious threats of their enemies,

on this occasion the temple builders met their adversaries with a bold front

(Ezra 5:11), and rested not until they brought the work to completion

(Zechariah 4:7, 9). Perseverance:


Ø      A characteristic of all sincere Christian workers. Exemplified in the

history of Jesus, of Peter and John, of Paul, and of others who have

followed in their steps.


Ø      A necessary condition of all true success in Christian working. The

greater the work, the more does it demand patient perseverance.

Enterprises that can be carried through with a rush and an effort are

seldom of moment.


Ø      A certain guarantee of ultimate success. The man who perseveres wins

in ordinary life commonly, in religious life certainly.


  • CONCLUSION. The Christian worker’s encouragement. “I am with you,

saith the Lord” (v. 13; compare Matthew 28:20).


1. For aid, to help you with needed strength in your labors (Psalm 127:1;

    Isaiah 41:10; Zechariah 12:1-10 – note the “I wills…..”). 

2. For protection, to defend you against the machinations of your

    adversaries (Ezra 5:5; Psalm 91:1-7; Proverbs 2:7;

        Zechariah 2:5; I Peter 3:13; Revelation 3:10).

            3. For approbation, to accept your service when it is finished (ch. 2:9).



The Hearty Response (vs. 12-15)


The human spirit is so backward in respect to the performance of the duties

and the fulfillment of the obligations it is under in relation to the higher life,

that it requires stimulus, and acts of renewed dedication to the service of

God cannot fail to be spiritually helpful. There are moments in life when we

become specially impressed as God’s servants with a sense of His claims to

our most devoted service, and when holy emotions rise within us, moving

us to a more unreserved consecration of ourselves to His service. And we

do well to make these impressions permanent by placing upon them the

stamp of holy resolution. It is wonderful how soon, if we do not take this

course, these impressions and emotions vanish. We should therefore foster

all holy impulses, and take advantage at once of all emotions and

aspirations which would constrain us to render to the Lord our God a truer

service than we have rendered in the past. Such impressions are buds we

should not nip, sparks of heavenly fire we should not extinguish, the

breathings of God’s own Spirit, from the influence of which it is at our

peril that we remove ourselves. The interest in these closing verses (12-15)

lies in that they present to us a bright example of this wise course being

pursued. The earnest address of the aged seer touched the hearts of his

hearers; they became painfully conscious of past omission and shortcoming

and neglect of duty, and were led to consecrate themselves anew to the

service of Him who had brought them up out of captivity and to their own





Ø      It was the spirit of obedience. “They obeyed the voice of the Lord their

God, and the words of Haggai the prophet” (v. 12).


Ø      It was the spirit of reverential fear. “And the people did fear before the

Lord” (v. 12). Whom God would make strong for His service He first

subdues to His fear.


Ø      This obedient and devout spirit was cherished by all. Zerubbabel the

governor, Joshua the high priest, and all the remnant of the people alike

made this full surrender of themselves to the service of their God (v. 14).




Ø      The Divine favour was experienced. Haggai was again commissioned to

speak to them in the name of the Lord, and to say to them for God, as His

messenger, “I am with you, saith the Lord” (v. 13). The abiding sense of

God’s presence with them had made the heroes of their nation the men

they were. Moses could face the whole Israelitish tribes when they were

murmuring against him and against Aaron; David could confront the

mail-clad Goliath; Daniel could be steadfast in the performance of his

religions duties despite the lions; Ezekiel could utter burning

denunciations against ungodly nations; — because they realized in their

 inmost hearts the consciousness of the presence and power of God.

And now this same presence was pledged to them, and in the Divine might

they would be able to overcome every obstacle. The promptness with

which this assurance was given is instructive. God is waiting to be

 gracious, and will meet the returning wanderer even before his hand

has begun the work of service.


Ø      The spiritual life was quickened. “The Lord stirred up the spirit of

Zerubbabel,” etc. (v 14). He gave new life to them all, so that they were

ready with zeal and enthusiasm with holy courage to do His bidding.


Ø      The good work was advanced. “And they came and did work in the

house of the Lord of hosts, their God” (v. 14)





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