1,28 Call for Patience, Haggai 2,10-19
A Call for Patience
The speech Haggai is now speaking comes a little more than two months since his last one, and about three months since the work on the temple had resumed. This date in modern times would be December, 18, 520 B.C.
A. The Nature of Defilement (2:11–13).
Haggai was directed to ask the priests a question concerning a principle of law. The priests were the teachers of the law, and therefore he knew that they would be able to answer a simple question. Haggai’s purpose was to elicit an answer which would explain why the circumstances of the people had not markedly changed even though they were now busy building the temple (2:11).
The hypothetical situation which Haggai posed was this: A person who had been offering sacrifice accidentally gets some consecrated meat caught in the “wing of his garment,” i.e., in the border corner or fold of the breast. This portion of the garment then accidentally brushes against some non-consecrated food—“bread, pottage, wine, oil or any food.” The question then which the priests are asked to answer: Would the holy meat impart holiness to the object accidentally touched? The priests answered the prophet’s question with an emphatic “No!” According to Leviticus 6:27 their answer was correct. The “wing” or cuff of the garment—that which was directly touched by the holy meat—was holy, but not that which the cuff touched (2:12).
A second question makes the case that defilement is much more easy to transfer than holiness. “If one unclean by reason of a corpse touch any of these things, shall it be unclean?” The priests answered this question: “It shall be unclean.” Again they were correct. According to Numbers 19:22 an unclean person communicated his uncleanness to everything he touched. Such uncleanness lasted seven days and, according to Numbers 19:11, could only be removed after elaborate ritual (2:13).
B. Defilement a Reality (2:14).
Haggai then made an application of this legal principle regarding defilement. “Thus is this people and thus is this nation before me.” The language “this nation” is language often used of heathen nations. It may be a sign of contempt. Just what had defiled the nation? Perhaps they were defiled by the wicked among them, or by their foreign contacts. More likely, however, it was their fifteen years or so of indifference regarding the work of the temple which had caused the defilement (Baldwin).
In any case, just as in the case which Haggai posed to the priests, “everything they touch is defiled.” “Every work of their hands” was unclean and even “that which they offer there,” i.e., on the altar. These words probably were spoken by the prophet as he pointed to the provisional altar erected many years earlier (Ezra 3:2). “The faint aroma of sanctity coming from their altar and sacrifices was too feeble to pervade the secular atmosphere of their life.”
Haggai reminds them—a ceremonially clean object cannot transfer holiness to another object, BUT an unclean object contaminates everything it touches!! The peoples PERSONAL sins had an effect on the nation. Lets put this so we can better understand—a healthy person cannot communicate his or her health to a dying person, but a dying person can spread contagion to the healthy!!
C. The Cause of Defilement (2:15–17).
Haggai now asked his auditors to “consider from this day and backward.”
“consider”—lay it to heart, ponder earnestly.
“This day” is probably referring to the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month when the work on the temple resumed. In paraphrase Haggai was saying: Look back on the time before you began to rebuild the temple. What was their condition like in the time “before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of Yahweh?” (2:15).
Prior to the resumption of the temple work the situation of the remnant was desperate. “Through all that time” one would come to “a heap” of sheaves which should have yielded twenty measures of grain. That heap, however, only yielded about half what would normally be expected(50% decrease). They came to the wine vat expecting to find fifty vessels, but found only twenty(60% decrease).
To explain these disappointing harvests, Haggai repeated what he said in his first oracle some four months earlier (cf. 1:10–11). Yahweh declared: “I smote you with blasting, and with mildew and with hail.” The “blasting” (shiddaphon) was the blight caused by the blasting of the east wind coming in from the hot desert. In a dream Pharaoh saw the grain of Egypt blasted by this wind (Gen 41:6). These divine judgments affected “all the work of your hands,” i.e., God was frustrating everything they tried to do. These disciplinary disasters had not moved the people to repent. “Yet you turned not to me” (2:17).
D. Promised Blessings (2:18–19).
Haggai calls upon the builders to “consider” (lit., set your heart) “from this day and backward.” “This day” refers to the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month,” the day on which he was delivering this third oracle. They should reflect on the period from the day Haggai was speaking back to the day “that the foundations of Yahweh’s house were laid.” Does he mean the time when the foundation of the temple was originally laid back in 537 b.c.? Or does he mean the more recent renewal of the work on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month? Probably the latter (2:18).
In the three months since the temple work had been resumed, no improvement in the circumstances of the remnant had been experienced. “Is yet the seed in the barn?” It is not clear whether he anticipates a positive or a negative answer to his question. If negative, the seed already had been used for sowing or consumed and used up. The vines and fruit trees had not produced. Thus even while they were building the temple the builders had to worry about the adequacy of the food supplies. If the situation was desperate back in August, it was even worse in December (2:19a).
Yahweh promises that the blessing would begin immediately. “From this day I will bless.” The reference must be to December 18, 520 b.c., the date of this third oracle. Thus the workers needed to be patient. Even though it would take about 4.5 years, the people had to be patient.Their previous defilement due to indifference had affected all their previous work. Now, however, all that would change (2:19b).
Truth-1) Spiritual indifference and disobedience are catchy. A few malcontents in the community can corrupt the whole.
2) This place does not make us holy—we must live committed lives—Put Him first and He will bless us!!
A Call for Patience
- The Nature of Defilement
- Defilement a Reality
- The Cause of Defilement
D. Promised Blessings