Summary: On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month in the second year of Darius, Haggai received the second of three messages from the Lord. This message was given to Haggai when the people were working on the restoration of the temple
Verse ten - “On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month in the second year of Darius,” Haggai received the second of three messages from the Lord. This message was given to Haggai when the people were working on the restoration of the temple. There were workers whose hearts and hands were unclean. Haggai is sent to the priests for a ruling on the law dealing with the difference between the clean and unclean. He asks the priests two questions.
Verse twelve - “If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?”
Although Haggai is a prophet ordained by the Lord, his ministry is speaking to the people for the Lord and give directions concerning the duties to be performed by the civil and religious leaders and all the people in the land. It was the duty of the priest to speak to the Lord on behalf of the people, teach the people the general meanings of the ordinances of the Lord and to give them general rules for the observances of the ordinances of the Lord. It is possible Haggai was sent to the priests so that out of their mouths he might judge both the acts of the priests as well as the people whose hearts and hands were unclean.
The priests’ answer to Haggai’s question was “No” (v. 12). The rule is, if a man has meat meant for a sacrifice touches other things they will not be made holy. Even though the garment is made a dedicated thing it is not to be put to a common use till it had been washed in the holy place (Levities 6:27). But it cannot transmit holiness to other things.
Verse thirteen - “Then Haggai said, ‘If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?’ And the priests answered and said, ‘It will become unclean.’”
The touching of a corpse made a person ceremonial unclean. Whatever a ceremonial unclean person touches becomes unclean (Numbers 19:22).
These rules clearly state pollution is easier transmitted than holiness. It is important people realize living good moral lifestyles is not the way to find favor in God’s eyes. They may find favor in the eyes of men. Finding favor in the eyes of the Lord requires a clean heart and hands. Dwelling on the unclean of this life will defile the heart. Touching the unclean things of this life will defile them. Therefore it is important they keep at a distance from it. When we come into the presence of the Lord we must have a clean heart and clean hands. The holy eyes of the Lord can not look on unclean things or tolerate them.
Haggai answers the priests and said:
Verse fourteen - “So is this people. And so is this nation before Me’ declares the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.’”
The Lord does not call the people and nation His people and nation. They were unworthy to be called His. They thought their offering sacrifices on the altar would sanctify them and excuse their neglect to build the temple and remove the curse that the neglect has brought upon them. The Lord said their contempt of God’s temple will bring a pollution upon their common enjoyments and their sacrifices. Though they work hard building the temple and offer costly sacrifices on the altar this will not sanctify their meat and drink. They will find no comfort in the works of their hands. The impurity of the heart and life make what good a person does unclean and an abomination to the Lord. The reason for the drought and famine was the neglect of restoring the temple. Now that they have returned to the restoring of the temple Haggai tells them:
Verses fifteen and sixteen - “Consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of the Lord, from that time when one came to a grain heap of twenty measures, there would be only ten; and one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures there would be only twenty.”
Haggai tells the people to retrace the past and compare what evils came upon them before they began the work of laying the temple upon the foundation that was built when the exiles first came to Jerusalem. Now that they have began the restoration of the temple the Lord will bless them. They have suffered the consequence of disobedience now they will enjoy the blessing of obedience. They must be careful not to fall into the indifference that brought the judgment of the Lord upon them.