"10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, 11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12 ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” 14 Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. 15 Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, 16 how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. 18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider: 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
Haggai's third prophecy was given some two months after the second. This is a somewhat complicated passage, but its message is of major importance, and it will be well worth the discipline of thinking it through carefully, in order to find its meaning. It takes the form of a parabolic saying on the subject of holiness and sin. It takes us back to the Levitical ordinances and ritual about ceremonial cleansing. The prophet asks for a judgment from the priests on two questions concerning the holy and the unclean, in order to make application of the answer they give to the moral and spiritual condition of the nation. The first question (12) has to do with the communication of the holiness of holy objects to other objects brought into contact with them: whether - if a person carried holy flesh in the skirt of his garment and touched any food with it, it would become holy in consequence. The priests answered correctly with a negative, in terms of Leviticus 6:27 which indicates that though the skirt of the garment itself was made holy by the holy flesh, it could not communicate this holiness any further. The second question has to do with the spread of legal defilement, and this also was answered correctly by the priests: according to Numbers 19:13, 22, whoever was defiled by touching a dead body made everything unclean that he touched. Here, then, is the message: 'holiness which passed from the source to an object immediately in touch with the latter did not spread further; but pollution infected not only the person in contact with it, but whatever he touched' (G. Adam Smith). It is this that the prophet proceeds to apply to the people's relation to the Lord and to their experience at that time. What that application was we shall look at in tomorrow's Note.