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The Command to Rebuild the Temple


In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the L ord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2Thus says the L ord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the L ord’s house. 3Then the word of the L ord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: 4Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5Now therefore thus says the L ord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. 6You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.

7 Thus says the L ord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. 8Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the L ord. 9You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the L ord of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses. 10Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the soil produces, on human beings and animals, and on all their labors.

12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the L ord their God, and the words of the prophet Haggai, as the L ord their God had sent him; and the people feared the L ord. 13Then Haggai, the messenger of the L ord, spoke to the people with the L ord’s message, saying, I am with you, says the L ord. 14And the L ord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the L ord of hosts, their God, 15on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month.

The Prophet now adds, that since the Jews were thus taught by their evils, nothing else remained for them but to prepare themselves without delay for the work of building the Temple; for they were not to defer the time, inasmuch as they were made to know, that God had come forth with an armed hand to vindicate his own right: for the sterility of which he had spoken, and also the famine and other signs of a curse, were like a drawn sword in the hand of God; by which it was evident, that he intended to punish the negligence of the people. As God then had been robbed of his right, he not only exhorted the people by his Prophets, but also executed his vengeance on this contempt.

This is the reason why the Prophet now says, Apply your heart, and then adds, Go up to the mountain, bring wood, etc. And this passage strikingly sets forth why God punished their sins, in order that they might not only perceive that they had sinned, but that they might also seek to amend that which displeased God. We may also, in the second place, learn from what is said, how we are to proceed rightly in the course of true repentance. The beginning is, that our sins should become displeasing to us; but if any of us proceed no farther, it will be only an evanescent feeling: it is therefore necessary to advance to the second step; an amendment for the better ought to follow. The Prophet expresses both here: He says first, Lay your heart on your ways; that is, “Consider whence comes this famine to you, and then how it is that by laboring much ye gain nothing, except that God is angry with you.” Now this was what wisdom required. But he again repeats the same thing, Lay your heart on your ways, that is, “Not only that sin may be hated by you, but also that this sloth, which has hitherto offended God and provoked his wrath, may be changed into strenuous activity.” Hence he says, Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and let the house be built

If any one is at a loss to know why the Prophet insists so much on building the Temple, the ready answer is this: that it was God’s design to exercise in this way his ancient people in the duties of religion. Though then the Temple itself was of no great importance before God, yet the end was to be regarded; for the people were preserved by the visible Temple in the hope of the future Christ; and then it behaved them always to bear in mind the heavenly pattern, that they might worship God spiritually under the external symbols. It was not then without reason that God was offended with their neglect of the temple; for it hence clearly appeared, that there was no care nor zeal for religion among the Jews. It often was the case that they were more sedulous than necessary in external worship, and God scorned their assiduity, when not connected with a right inward feeling; but the gross contempt of God in disregarding even the external building, is what is reprehended here by the Prophet.

He afterwards adds, And I will be propitious in it, or, I will take pleasure in it. Some read, It will please me; and they depart not from the real meaning of the verb: for רצה, retse—is to be acceptable. But more correct, in my view, is the opinion of those who think that the Prophet alludes to the promise of God; for he had said, that he would on this condition dwell among the Jews, that he might hear their prayers, and be propitious to them. As, then, the Jews came to the Temple to expiate their sins, that they might return to God’s favor, it is not without reason that God here declares that he would be propitious in that house.

‘If any one sin,’ said Solomon, ‘and entering this house, shall humbly pray, do thou also hear from thy heavenly habitation.’
(1 Kings 8:30.)

We further know that the covering of the ark was called the propitiatory, because God there received the suppliant into favor. This meaning, then, seems the most suitable—that the Prophet says, that if the Temple was built, God would be there propitious. But it was a proof of extreme impiety to think that they could prosper while God was adverse to them: for whence could they hope for happiness, except from the only fountain of all blessings, that is, when God favored them and was propitious to them? And how could his favor be sought, except they came to his sanctuary, and thence raise up their minds by faith to heaven? When, therefore, there was no care for the Temple, it was easy to conclude that God himself was neglected, and regarded almost with scorn. We then see how emphatically this was added, I will be propitious there, that is, in the Temple; as though he had said, “Your infirmity ought to have reminded you that you have need of this help, even of worshipping me in the sanctuary. But as I gave you, as it were, a visible mirror of my presence among you, when I ordered a Temple to be built for me on mount Sion, when ye despise the Temple, is it not the same as though I was rejected by you?”

He then adds, And I shall be glorified, saith Jehovah. He seems to express the reason why he should be propitious; for he would then see that his glory was regarded by the Jews. At the same time, this reason may be taken by itself, and this is what I prefer. 137137     The whole verse may be thus rendered—
   Ascend the mountains, for ye have brought wood;
And build the house, that I may delight in it,
That I may be glorified, saith Jehovah.

   The [ו], vau, here in two instances may have the meaning of ut, that; but before [הבאתם], a verb in the perfect tense, it must be rendered “for,” or, “as;” and the clause seems to be a parenthesis. The [ו], vau, is not conversive when preceded by a verb in the imperative mood, as it appears from the end of the verse. The mount was not Libanus, as many have supposed, but Sion, where wood had been previously brought, but was not used. See Ezra 3:7. As to the verb [רצה], followed by [ב], it means to approve, to be pleased with, or to take pleasure or delight in, a thing. See 2 Chronicles 29:3; Psalm 147:10; Micah 6:7. Probably the best rendering of the two last lines is the following—

   And build the house, and I shall delight in it
And render it glorious, saith Jehovah.

   To take the last verb in a causative sense is more consistent with the tenor of the passage. This is the meaning given by the Targum, and is adopted by Dathius.Ed.
The Prophet then employs two goads to awaken the Jews: When the Temple was built, God would bless them; for they would have him pacified, and whenever they found him displeased, they might come as suppliants to seek pardon; this was one reason why it behaved them strenuously to undertake the building of the Temple. The second reason was, that God would be glorified. Now, what could have been more inconsistent than to disregard God their deliverer, and so late a deliverer too? But how God was glorified by the Temple I have already briefly explained; not that it added anything to God; but such ordinances of religion were then necessary, as the Jews were as yet like children. It now follows—

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