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The prophet reproves the people, and particularly their ruler and high priest, for negligence and delay in rebuilding the temple; and tells them that their neglect was the cause of their having been visited with unfruitful seasons, and other marks of the Divine displeasure, Haggai 1:1-11. He encourages them to set about the work, and on their doing so, promises that God will be with them, Haggai 1:12-15.
We know nothing of the parentage of Haggai. He was probably born in Babylon during the captivity, and appears to have been the first prophet sent to the Jews after their return to their own land. He was sent particularly to encourage the Jews to proceed with the building of the temple, which had been interrupted for about fourteen years. Cyrus, who had published an edict empowering the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their city and temple, revoked this edict in the second year of his reign, through the evil advice of his courtiers and other enemies of the Jews. After his death Cambyses renewed the prohibition, but after the death of Cambyses, Darius, the son of Hystaspes, renewed the permission; and Haggai was sent to encourage his countrymen to proceed with the work. Darius came to the throne about the year b.c. 521, and published his edict of permission for the Jews to rebuild the city and temple in the second year of his reign, which was the sixteenth of their return from Babylon.
In the sixth month - Called (Elul) by the Hebrews. It was the sixth month of the ecclesiastical year, and the last of the civil year, and answered to a part of our September.
Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel - Who was son of Jeconiah, king of Judah, and of the family of David, and exercised the post of a governor among the people, but not over them, for both he and they were under the Persian government; but they were permitted to have Zerubbabel for their own governor, and Joshua for their high priest; and these regulated all matters relative to their peculiar political and ecclesiastical government. But it appears from Ezra, Ezra 5:3, that Tatnai, the governor on this side the river, had them under his cognizance. None of their own governors was absolute. The Persians permitted them to live under their own laws and civil regulations; but they always considered them as a colony, over which they had a continual superintendence.
Joshua the son of Josedech - And son of Seraiah, who was high priest in the time of Zedekiah, and was carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, 1 Chronicles 6:15. But Seraiah was slain at Riblah, by order of Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Kings 25:18-21.
The time is not come - They thought that the seventy years spoken of by Jeremiah were not yet completed, and it would be useless to attempt to rebuild until that period had arrived. But Abp. Usher has shown that from the commencement of the last siege of Jerusalem unto this time, precisely sixty-nine years had been completed.
Is it time for you - If the time be not come to rebuild the temple, it cannot be come for you to build yourselves comfortable houses: but ye are rebuilding your houses; why then do ye not rebuild the house of the Lord? The foundation of the temple had been laid fourteen years before, and some considerable progress made in the building; and it had been lying waste in that unfinished state to the present time.
Consider your ways - Is it fit that you should be building yourselves elegant houses, and neglect a place for the worship of that God who has restored you from captivity?
Ye have sown much - God will not bless you in any labor of your hands, unless you rebuild his temple and restore his worship. This verse contains a series of proverbs, no less than five in the compass of a few lines.
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood - Go to Lebanon, and get timber. In the second year of the return from the captivity, they had procured cedar trees from Lebanon, and brought them to Joppa, and had hired masons and carpenters from the Tyrians and Sidonians; but that labor had been nearly lost by the long suspension of the building. Ezra 3:7.
Ye looked for much - Ye made great pretensions at first; but they are come to nothing. Ye did a little in the beginning; but so scantily and unwillingly that I could not but reject it.
Ye run every man unto his own house - To rebuild and adorn it; and God‘s house is neglected!
Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew - It appears from the following verse that God had sent a drought upon the land, which threatened them with scarcity and famine.
Then Zerubbabel - The threatening of Haggai had its proper effect. - The civil governor, the high priest, and the whole of the people, united together to do the work. When the authority of God is acknowledged, his words will be carefully obeyed.
Then spake Haggai - He was the Lord‘s messenger, and he came with the Lord‘s message, and consequently he came with authority. He is called מלאך יהוה (malach Yehovah), the angel of Jehovah, just as the pastors of the seven Asiatic churches are called Angels of the Churches, Revelation 1:2.
I am with you, saith the Lord - Here was high encouragement. What may not a man do when God is his helper?
And the Lord stirred up the spirit - It is not only necessary that the judgment should be enlightened, but the soul must be invigorated by the Spirit of God, before any good work can be effectually done.
In the four and twentieth day - Haggai received his commission on the first day of this month and by the twenty-fourth day he had so completely succeeded that he had the satisfaction to see the whole people engaged heartily in the Lord‘s work; they left their own houses to build that of the Lord. Here was a faithful reprover, and he found obedient ears; and the Lord‘s work was done, for the people had a mind to work.